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Key Points

  • Parliament has voted to amend SA’s GM moratorium. Local councils will be given the opportunity to apply to the Minister for Primary Industries to be designated as a GM-free area.
  • Producers in all areas of mainland SA not designated as GM free will have the freedom to choose to grow the crops that best fit their farming system beginning from the 2021 season.
  • The moratorium will remain in place on Kangaroo Island indefinitely.
  • A GM-free designation only applies to cultivation and research. Transport and consumption of GM material will not be affected by a GM-free designation.


The South Australian Parliament has passed legislation to lift the Genetically Modified (GM) moratorium and allow GM crops to be grown on mainland South Australia under changes to the legal framework in place since 2004.   

The Government’s Genetically Modified Crops Management (Designated Area) Amendment Bill2020 will allow councils to apply to retain SA’s GM crop moratorium over the next six-months. All other areas (except Kangaroo Island) will then have the moratorium lifted.

The final decision on whether that exemption is granted will reside with the Minister for Primary Industries and Regional Development.

GPSA believes that these amendments are a step towards removing all state-based restrictions on GM crops in the near future. On behalf of South Australian growers, GPSA has worked diligently with all sides of politics to ensure that the amendments achieve a commercially viable outcome.

We understand growers will have many questions about what this means for them. To assist growers, we have put together this fact sheet which will answer common questions.


What does this mean for South Australian growers?

Under the changes to the legislation, South Australian growers will have the certainty they need to invest in GM seed and plant GM crops in time for the 2021 grain growing season.

Following a six-month window for local councils to apply for GM-free designation, growers in local council areas on mainland SA not designated as GM-free will have have the freedom to choose to grow GM varieties approved by the Office of the Gene Technology Regulator (OGTR). 

However, growers on Kangaroo Island, and other local council areas designated as GM-free will be prevented from cultivating GM crops.


I am interested in growing GM canola next year, what do I do now?

Growers looking to include GM varieties as part of their 2021 rotation should first speak to their agronomist and preferred seed supplier. However, before signing contracts or receiving seed, GPSA is encouraging growers to wait for the Government to assess any application by their local council.

Growers are typically required to complete an accreditation course prior to receiving GM seed. Growers may also be required to comply with licensing and stewardship protocols, a technology management plan and resistance management plans approved by OGTR.

There are other requirements to ensure the responsible use of GM technology, which may include:

  • Allowing the technology provider and the OGTR to collect information in relation to a GM product, and provide information sufficient to identify paddocks where a GM product is being cultivated;
  • Informing the technology provider if there are any unintended or adverse consequences from the use of a GM product; and
  • Allowing the technology provider to collect samples and inspect equipment for three years after planting a GM product.


How will councils apply to be designated as a GM-free area?

Under agreed amendments to the Government’s Genetically Modified Crops Management (Designated Area) Amendment Bill 2020, local councils will have a time-limited ability to apply to be a GM crop cultivation free area. The moratorium will remain on Kangaroo Island.

While councils will be able to apply to have the moratorium continue within their municipality, the final decision will rest with the Minister. State Governments can only regulate GM food crops where there are risks to markets and trade.

The ability for councils to apply to be a non-GM crop cultivation area will expire six months after the legislation is assented to. Councils will need to follow the application process outlined in the amended legislation, which includes consulting with primary producers.


Could a declaration of a GM-free area impact the movement of GM seed?

The amended legislation provides for an exception for the transportation of a GM food crop, or any plant or plant material that has formed or is to form part of a GM food crop from the meaning of “cultivate”.

This means that transport of GM seed or any harvested GM material through a designated GM-free local government area will not be restricted. This ensures that the operation of key freight routes or port zones will not be impacted.


What if a council changes its mind about a GM-free designation?

Under the new framework, a GM-free designation must be implemented within six months of the Act commencing. This means councils will have a one-time and time-limited opportunity to consider a GM-free designation.

After the six-month period has ended, a council may only apply to remove an existing GM-free designation.


When will Kangaroo Island be able to access GM technology?

Under this legislation, Kangaroo Island’s GM-free status will be enshrined in the Act, and can only be removed or altered by a further act of Parliament.  GPSA firmly believes that all primary producers deserve the freedom to choose the varieties that best fit their farming system and will continue to advocate for further legislative change.


Where can I find out more information?

GPSA will be providing ongoing updates to our members as further information becomes available.

Growers are also encouraged to review material published by the South Australian Government.


Current as at 13 May 2020