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As the moratorium on genetically modified crops continues to be debated in the South Australian Parliament, it is important that growers understand the legal framework which governs the commercial cultivation of GM crops for the 2020 growing season.    

GPSA’s clear objective is to remove the moratorium and give growers on mainland SA the freedom of choice to access the crops which best suit their farming systems. 

Following the re-introduction of regulations to enable the lawful commercial cultivation of GM crops on mainland SA from 1 January 2020, GPSA is advising growers to exercise caution given the legal uncertainty which exists at this stage.

On 19 February 2020 the Hon Mark Parnell MLC introduced a motion to disallow the Government's regulations. If the disallowance succeeds the moratorium will be reinstated. Growers may then face significant penalties if found to be dealing with GM material without Ministerial approval.

In advance of the disallowance motion, the Minister for Primary Industries, the Hon Tim Whetstone MP, reintroduced legislation on 18 February 2020 that would limit the moratorium to Kangaroo Island. 

GPSA will continue to advocate for regulatory certainty to access GM technology and will provide updates to our membership as the situation changes. 

What this means for growers

Changes to regulations under the Genetically Modified Crops Management Act 2004 enable GM food crops to be grown in all regions ofSouth Australia except of Kangaroo Island from 1 January 2020. 

Political and legislative uncertainty means that growers should exercise caution. It is GPSA’s expectation that the regulations will shortly be disallowed by the Legislative Council.

GPSA is continuing to work with all sides of politics to see a workable solution achieved in adopting GM technology; which provides certainty for the industry and restores a level playing field in the regulation of GM crops relative to our interstate counterparts.

Growers can be assured that GPSA will continue to put a strong case forward that reform in this area is long-overdue.

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Legislative Framework

The legislative framework for establishing the moratorium is set out in the Genetically Modified Crops Management Act 2004, with the exact details (including the area that the moratorium applies to) contained in the Genetically Modified Crops Management Regulations 2008.

State Governments can only regulate GM food crops where there are risks to markets and trade. Whether the moratorium is removed by regulation or by legislation is ultimately for the Government and Parliament to decide. 

GPSA’s position

GPSA has consistently argued that the moratorium offers little in the way of trade and marketing benefits to the majority of agricultural producers in SA and only removes the option of using GM tools which have been independently proven to be safe and effective.

GPSA believes that growers deserve the freedom to grow the cereal, legume and oilseed varieties that best fit their farming system.

Independent Review

In 2019 the SA Government commissioned a high-level independent review conducted by Professor Kym Anderson. This review found that the moratorium has cost SA’s grain industry at least $33 million since 2004.

In addition to the $33 million cost, Professor Anderson’s review found that:

  • there is no price premium for grain from South Australia despite it being the only mainland state with a GM crop moratorium,
  • the moratorium will continue to hurt South Australian producers with (at least) another $5 million cost if the moratorium continues until 2025,
  • GM crops typically use less, rather than more farm chemicals when compared to conventional crops,
  • GM crops can also deliver reduced weed control costs and increased yields,
  • KI growers would be able to preserve their unique non-GM market,
  • South Australia’s moratorium has discouraged both public and private research and development investment in this state,
  • removing the moratorium will attract or retain research dollars, scientists, and post-graduate students in South Australia, and
  • segregation protocols (such as those used interstate) ensures the successful co-existence of GM and non-GM crops.

Following the release of the review, GPSA identified the need for targeted consultation with growers on Kangaroo Island in relation to specific findings.

Kangaroo Island growers

GPSA held a public forum for primary producers on 15 March 2019 in Parndana to discuss the findings from the Independent Review. KI Pure Grain’s niche supply contract may be jeopardised if GM crops are able to be cultivated on Kangaroo Island.

The consensus at the Forum was that the moratorium should continue to apply to the Island to allow KI producers and KI Pure Grain to implement segregation protocols should GM technology become available which may be of use to the Island’s livestock or cropping industries.

GPSA has recommended that further consultation with KI primary producers occurs well in advance of the expiry of the moratorium, and in the event new GM varieties approved by the OGTR become available. This prohibition should not remain indefinitely and instead be subject to regular review.

Parliamentary Select Committee

A Parliamentary Select Committee to investigate GM Crops was established in August 2018. This inquiry was separate to the Independent Review conducted by Professor Kym Anderson.

The Select Committee released its report in October 2019 but could not agree on the status of the GM moratorium. Two of the four committee members (the Hon John Darley MLC and the Hon John Dawkins MLC) recommended that the moratorium be restricted to Kangaroo Island in line with GPSA’s proposal and the Government’s stated policy.

The Select Committee’s findings were inconclusive as to whether any changes should be made to the moratorium. The moratorium will automatically expire on 1 September 2025 unless Parliament decides otherwise.

Changes to legislation 

In August 2019, Minister Whetstone announced that the Government would restrict the moratorium to Kangaroo Island, mirroring GPSA’s policy proposal to accommodate the geographically and economically unique circumstances of Kangaroo Island growers.

In accordance with the legislative framework, PIRSA conducted extensive industry consultation which included formal written submissions and public meetings on Kangaroo Island and in Adelaide. This consultation closed on 30 September 2019.

The statutory consultation period saw 218 submissions received, with the majority of these in favour of restricting the GM moratorium to Kangaroo Island. More information on the consultation process, including the draft regulations, is available on the PIRSA website.

New regulations were proposed to come into effect on 1 December which would have removed SA’s GM moratorium from the mainland. However, on 27 November a disallowance vote in the Legislative Council blocked the introduction of these regulations.

The Marshall Government then announced that it would remove the moratorium from the mainland through a formal act of Parliament. Unfortunately, that was also defeated by a vote in the Legislative Council.

In late December 2019, the Marshall Government announced that it would reintroduce regulations to remove SA’s GM moratorium from the mainland on 1 January 2020. These regulations have taken effect but are subject to the outcome of a disallowance motion in the Legislative Council that was first introduced on 19 February 2020.

In advance of the disallowance motion, the Minister for Primary Industries, the Hon Tim Whetstone MP, reintroduced legislation on 18 February 2020 that would limit the moratorium to Kangaroo Island. GPSA also expects Labor, SA-Best, and the Greens to propose new legislation that would change the nature of the moratorium. 


Further information

Read GPSA CEO Caroline Rhodes' op-ed in The Advertiser, which calls for an end to the GM moratorium.

Read the Draft Regulations

Read GPSA's response to the Statutory Consultation on the Draft Regulations 


Read GPSA’s submission to the Independent Review

Read the Independent Review’s findings

Read GPSA’s response to the Independent Review


Read GPSA’s submission to the Select Committee

Read GPSA’s transcript from the Select Committee

Read the Select Commitee's report


Read the agenda for GPSA’s KI public forum for primary producers

Read GPSA’s letter to Minister Whetstone regarding Kangaroo Island