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Councils considering GM crop opt-out after SA ban lifted

Local

South Australian councils are considering whether to apply to keep a ban on genetically-modified crops in their areas, with one southeastern council already flagging its intention to allow GM farming ahead of a public consultation.

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Kingston District Council has endorsed an “in principle” position to allow genetically-modified cropping in its area, with the council now consulting ratepayers to gauge their views on its decision.

The Limestone Coast council’s consultation process differs from that of some other regional councils, which are asking for public feedback on GM crops before they form a position.

The State Government in May passed legislation to lift South Australia’s GM moratorium – previously scheduled to end in 2025 – across all parts of the state except Kangaroo Island.

Councils have until November 15 to apply to keep the ban in their areas, with the final decision resting with Primary Industries Minister Tim Whetstone.

After November, councils will no longer have any say on the matter.

Kingston District Council mayor Kay Rasheed told InDaily her council voted to endorse its “in principle” position as it was unlikely the area would be significantly impacted by GM farming.

“We are not a massively big area for cropping down in our district, so I think an in-principle decision was made, but we would still go to consultation with the community,” she said.

“Just in the last few days a submission form has been sent out to all primary producers and it’s also been put on our Facebook page for people who may not be actual landholders, but beekeepers or vignerons or something like that.

“Obviously, if these submissions and questionnaires come back in favour of being GM-free, Council will make a final decision at our August council meeting.”

Meanwhile, results from a June survey conducted by the Eyre Peninsula Local Government Association of almost 200 farmers show 80 per cent supported the parliament’s lifting of the GM crops moratorium.

Association president and Tumby Bay District Council mayor Sam Telfer said those in favour of the ban being lifted cited agronomic advantage, technological and trait development, and choice and flexibility for growers.

He said those against the ban spoke about market disadvantage and contamination risks.

Northern Areas Council has opted to not conduct any public consultation, with mayor Denis Clark telling Stock Journal the time and costs involved meant it would be a “waste of resources” and the council had “no position on whether it’s right or wrong”.

According to a Local Government Association report, councils face “significant” decisions as “declining to make an application is effectively a decision that the council will never be a non-GM crop area”.

Councils are not obliged to consult their ratepayers unless they choose to make an application to keep the GM ban in their areas.

Last December, Premier Steven Marshall was critical of the idea to allow councils to apply to be exempt from GM cropping – an amendment brought in by Labor and eventually agreed to by the Government in April.

The issue was also a thorny one for Labor, opening up caucus divisions, with former frontbencher Leon Bignell advocating for the moratorium to remain, but current primary industries spokesman Eddie Hughes publicly urging “an open mind” on lifting the moratorium and “accepting the science” behind the push to lift the ban.

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