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GM-free push circles city as more councils join cause

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Four more semi-rural councils have voted to remain free of genetically modified crops, increasing pressure on Primary Industries Minister David Basham to extend the moratorium across an ever-increasing section of the state.

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Adelaide Hills, Playford and Gawler councils last night voted to write to Basham requesting their districts remain free of GM crops following a similar vote by Alexandrina Council on Monday night.

The four councils join Mount Barker, Barossa, Onkaparinga and Yankalilla to complete a ring around the Adelaide metropolitan area.

The move is at odds with a State Government plan to lift a moratorium on GM-free crops in South Australia, which has been in place since 2004.

It will be up to new Primary Industries Minister David Basham to give final approval to the requests.

The push has been driven by leading Australian wine regions including McLaren Vale, Barossa and Adelaide Hills, which say millions of dollars of exports are at risk if their areas allow GM crops to be grown.

It is understood that Gawler’s decision was influenced by its proximity to the Barossa wine region and the potential impact on a major organic farm in the area. Playford has a small number of vineyards in its area and more than 60 per cent of respondents to community consultation supported maintaining the moratorium.

Councils circling the city want to remain GM-free. Map: InDaily

Adelaide Hills Council received 266 submissions on the issues with 76 per cent of respondents wanting to keep GM crops out of the area.

Adelaide Hills Deputy Mayor Nathan Daniell said business and association feedback, particularly the Adelaide Hills Wine Region, showed that failing to achieve an exemption would put more than $10 million of annual Adelaide Hills exports at risk.

“This is an unacceptable risk for our local producers,” he said.

“Seeking this exemption is a once in a lifetime opportunity where our region has a lot to gain and little to lose.

“Remaining GM-free protects our premium clean and green brand while not disadvantaging local producers who support GM crops, given there are no GM food crop varieties currently available for commercial cultivation that favour producers in the council area.”

The Adelaide Hills vote completes a swathe of councils wanting to remain GM-free stretching from the Barossa, through the Adelaide Hills to McLaren Vale and south to Cape Jervis.

“Our decision opens the door for a regional designation to be implemented which would strengthen the marketing advantage of the Adelaide Hills, Barossa and Fleurieu regions as a premium food and beverage destination and ensure there is no economic detriment to the region as a result of the GM moratorium being lifted,” Daniell said.

Victor Harbor Council completed its community consultation last week and will vote on the issue at its September 28 meeting.

Light Regional Council covers about 40 per cent of the Barossa Valley wine region on its north-western flank including Seppeltsfield, Gomersal and Greenock.

It has decided not to apply for the designation for its entire district but has instead asked Basham to consider designating the part of its jurisdiction within the boundaries of the famous wine district GM-free.

All other mainland states allow genetically modified crops to be grown, with canola and cotton the first to be approved for growth in Australia.

Kangaroo Island was designated GM-free following recommendations from a high-level State Government-commissioned review undertaken by Emeritus Professor Kym Anderson last year.

It found that the lifting of the ban would damage the island’s grain industry, as all of its canola is exported to Japan to be sold as ethically produced, single-origin and GM-free canola.

Legislation lifting a 16-year-old ban on genetically modified crops in SA was passed by state parliament in May.

This sparked a process allowing councils until September 30 to apply to be GM-free if they consulted with their local community and demonstrate an economic benefit.

The applications will now be assessed by the GM Crop Advisory Committee before Basham makes a final decision, which is expected mid-November in time for potential GM planning ahead of the 2021 canola season.

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