Opinions divided as councils stake GM-free claims

Opinions divided as councils stake GM-free claims

Cropping
BROAD POTENTIAL: Angaston grapegrower, broadacre cropper, sheep and cattle producer Mark Grossman is in favour of allowing GM crops in the Barossa.

BROAD POTENTIAL: Angaston grapegrower, broadacre cropper, sheep and cattle producer Mark Grossman is in favour of allowing GM crops in the Barossa.

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FOUR SA councils to-date have confirmed they will apply to be genetically modified-free regions, as the deadline to seek designation from Primary Industries Minister David Basham fast approaches.

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FOUR SA councils to-date have confirmed they will apply to be genetically modified-free regions, as the deadline to seek designation from Primary Industries Minister David Basham fast approaches.

The Barossa, Mount Barker District, Yankalilla District and Onkaparinga councils will all apply to remain GM-free ahead of the September 30 deadline, with applications to be processed by November 15.

Barossa Council mayor Bim Lange confirmed on Wednesday that his council would make a case to be GM-free after a lengthy consultation process.

The council area includes Nuriootpa and Stockwell to the north, Mount Pleasant to the south, Eden Valley to the east and Lyndoch and Williamstown to the west.

More than 100 submissions were received, with 84.9 per cent in favour of making an application and a letter from the Barossa Grape and Wine Association highlighting the potential negative impact on the reputation and leading brand position of the Barossa.

"The submission will feature predominantly around the importance of the Barossa branding and the impact that may have as a result of not remaining GM-free," Mr Lange said.

A diverse region featuring vineyards, horticulture, broadacre crops and grazing, opinions vary among the local primary industries sector.

Agricultural Bureau of SA chair and Angaston farmer Mark Grossman believes allowing GM technology could have benefits for multiple industries.

"I'm in favour of allowing GM crops because there's so many opportunities, whether it's drought resistance, disease resistance and other traits that can be bred into crops much more quickly and effectively, whether that be fruit, vegetables or cereals," he said.

Mr Grossman runs sheep and cattle, as well as growing cereal crops and grapes.

"Even with pasture production, GM can allow for greater production and feed efficiency to be bred into pastures," he said.

Grapegrower and Lone Pine Tanunda Ag Bureau president Phil Neldner said he didn't have a firm opinion on GM crops either way.

"I'm not quite sure whether it's to the advantage of the local graingrowers or not," he said.

"I don't whether it would be harmful to the area or not (from an economic perspective). It should really be a step forward because it's backed by science but that's not necessarily how everyone will view it."

Former Barossa vigneron of the year and Rowland Flat Ag Bureau committee member Trevor Wilksch said local opinions were split on the prospect of being a GM-free region.

"Generally it's a 50-50 here among the people I've spoken to," he said.

"Personally, I think we should let it run because the markets generated from being GM-free are not really there."

Mr Wilksch estimated the Rowland Flat region consisted of 60pc grapes and 25pc cereals, with the remainder used for grazing.

"The benefits of allowing GM outweigh the GM-free because there's no extra dollars," he said.

"But by allowing GM, you're going to get a lot of benefits - potentially drought tolerance, salt tolerance and all sorts of traits you can breed into grain."

Mount Barker District Council received 143 submissions on the matter, with 87pc supporting a GM-free bid.

The council area encompasses Kanmantoo and part of Callington to the east, Harrogate and Mount Torrens districts to the north, Meadows and Prospect Hill to the south and Mylor to the west.

MBDC Strategic Planning and Economic Development manager Greg Sarre said the weight of submissions in support of that position was the primary reason the council decided to lodge an application.

"A number of those had good arguments and there were also some good counter-arguments, but basically it came down to the weight of the submissions," he said.

Mr Sarre said the majority of the submissions were community-based submissions, not from the primary industries sector, but the majority of those received from primary producers were also supportive of an application to remain GM-free.

The council will discuss the possibility of making a regional application with its neighbouring councils, but Mr Sarre said they would lodge an application regardless of neighbouring support.

Onkaparinga's application will draw on engagement results and submissions from organisations like the McLaren Vale Grape Wine and Tourism Association.

Council will argue that businesses, particularly organic and biodynamic vineyards, would "stand to lose more than they would gain from the impact of GM crops on the actual and potential export value of their product".

Evidence provided by four McLaren Vale wineries claimed $5.1 million per annum of export value was at "immediate risk".

The application followed community engagement which showed a "clear preference" from the general community and key stakeholders, including primary producers and food manufacturers, for a GM-free designation.

Also applying for GM-free designation will be Yankalilla District Council, with mayor Glen Rowlands saying councillors voted unanimously that a request be made to the Minister.

"Council have listened to the feedback from our community with 87pc of community responses wanting to remain GM-free and 71pc of responses from primary producers wanting to remain GM-free," he said.

"We want to retain the district's reputation for producing high quality GM-free foods that attract a premium price.

"Our district has many small organic farmers that could be impacted by any trace of GM crops with immediate loss of certification so we wish to support these farmers to continue their current business models."

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