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.
Changes negotiated between the Government and Labor opposition have provided local councils with 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.