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State Govt moves to lift ban on GM crops

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The State Government will seek to lift the state’s long-standing ban on genetically-modified crops beginning next year for much of South Australia, but Kangaroo Island will continue with the moratorium.

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If the changes get through state Parliament, mainland farmers would be given the freedom to choose to plant GM crops for the first time since 2003.

The Government announced today it had decided to lift the moratorium following recommendations from the independent review undertaken by Emeritus Professor Kym Anderson.

While a statutory six-week consultation period will begin today, the Government said it would introduce regulations to lift the ban after the consultation period had ended.

All other mainland states allow GM crops.

Primary Industries and Regional Development Minister Tim Whetstone said the review had found the GM ban did not provide a price premium for South Australian farmers compared to neighbouring states.

He said the review had found the ban had cost SA farmers at least $33 million since 2004.

“Considering the future economic impact on farmers, it is time to lift the moratorium on the mainland and provide farmers choice on crops they seek to grow,” Whetstone said in a statement.

“This reform will help increase farm profitably and drought resilience, create job opportunities in our regions, grow the state’s economy and attract greater research investment.”

GM crops will continue to be banned on Kangaroo Island, due to its established Japanese market for non-GM canola oil.

However, Whetstone raised the prospect of the ban being lifted on the Island, given some local farmers did want the option to plant GM varieties in the future.

“Retaining the moratorium on the Island will provide a chance to prove to existing markets segregation can be as successful and reliable in the South Australian grains industry as it is in other Australian states.”

The minister also flagged climate change as a reason for lifting the ban, saying farmers needed the capacity to take advantage of new GM varieties as they become available to the market.

Despite the seeming fait accompli of the Government’s position, the Genetically Modified Crops Management Act requires a formal consultation period, with written submissions to be accepted and public meetings held in Adelaide and Kangaroo Island.

The GM crop moratorium was introduced by the Rann Labor Government in 2003 and renewed three times – in 2008, 2014 and 2017. The current ban is legislated to remain in place until 2025.

Labor, which argued in Government that the GM crop ban gave South Australia a marketing edge over other states, indicated today it might be prepared to shift its position.

Opposition primary industries and regional development spokesman Eddie Hughes said today’s announcement pre-empted an Upper House inquiry which is examining the potential costs and benefits of lifting the ban.

“Labor wants to make sure that whatever decision is made, it is in the best interest of South Australian farmers,” he said in a statement to InDaily.

“That is why we will wait for the select committee – which has heard submissions from primary producers all over the state – to deliver its findings.”

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