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GM ban binned again as Government raises stakes

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The Marshall Government has thumbed its nose at state parliament and answered the pleas of the state’s grain lobby by introducing new regulations to overturn South Australia’s GM ban.

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The move will provoke uproar from the Greens, who successfully moved to disallow previously-imposed regulations scrapping the state’s Labor-imposed moratorium on genetically-modified crops.

That roadblock prompted Primary Industries and Regional Development Minister Tim Whetstone to try and lift the ban by legislation, but that too was blocked, with Labor and SA Best joining the Greens in rejecting it.

But in a provocative political gambit, Whetstone today gazetted new regulations – to come into effect from January 1 – giving “farmers on mainland SA the choice to grow genetically modified crops”.

Whetstone said in a statement the move would “allow South Australian farmers to make decisions ahead of the 2020 growing season and give them more tools to grow the economy and create jobs”.

The moratorium will continue on Kangaroo Island.

“The Marshall Liberal Government is standing with our farmers to lift the GM moratorium on mainland SA,” he said.

“When we first introduced regulations the Labor Party and SA Best made the petty excuse that they didn’t agree with the process and that legislation should be introduced.

“The State Government did exactly that and inexplicably the Labor/SA Best alliance voted against the legislation to again show they are not the farmers’ friend.”

Whetstone said farmers and research scientists had “suffered for 15 long years… under a moratorium which has cost real money, denied progress and put a handbrake on our economy”.

“Lifting the GM crop moratorium will give our farmers the same opportunities as farmers in our neighbouring states, which will increase productivity and create jobs,” he said.

But Greens MLC Mark Parnell, who championed the disallowance of the previous regulations, said the move would not provide certainty for farmers.

“Having been twice defeated in the Legislative Council, the Minister has instead decided to unilaterally introduce regulations that he must know are likely to be disallowed again next year,” he said.

This doesn’t provide any certainty to farmers, who would be very unwise to assume that parliament will simply ignore serious concerns raised by MPs about GM contamination and liability.

“After all, that is precisely why some MPs voted down the Government’s last attempt to lift the moratorium.”

He said Whetstone had acted “like a bull in a china shop” by side-stepping parliament again.

“If the Minister thinks that showing contempt for Parliament is the best way to influence the outcome, he is likely to come a cropper for the third time when Parliament resumes in February,” he said. 

“Given the inevitable cross-contamination that will result from allowing GM crops, it is only reasonable that the parliament be given the chance to address the question of liability for loss or damage…  having farmers suing each other when organic or non-GM crops become contaminated by nearby GM crops is an awful prospect.”

He flagged a new disallowance move as “the first item of business when parliament resumes” in February.

“We believe that the moratorium should remain in place to allow South Australia to develop and capitalise on its clean, green and natural food reputation,” he said.

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