Review of SA’s GM crop moratorium
SA's GM moratorium was removed on mainland SA on 1 January 2020 by the introduction of new regulations. GPSA understands that these may be subject to a disallowance motion in SA Parliament when it resumes early in 2020. As a result, growers should exercise caution in dealing with GM crops at this time.
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.
The Government's position
The Marshall Government committed to removing the moratorium following the recommendations of an Independent Review.
The regulatory framework
Under the Genetically Modified Crops Management Act 2004, the area designated in which no GM crops can be grown is set out in the Genetically Modified Crops Management Regulations 2008.
Any changes to the area designated under the regulations attracts a statutory six-week consultation process.
On November 27 the Legislative Council blocked revised regulations which would have removed SA's GM moratorium from the mainland.
On December 2, the Marshall Government announced that it would introduce legislation to remove SA's GM moratorium from the mainland. It is intended that the GM moratorium will remain on Kangaroo Island until 2025.
In December 19 2019, Marshall Government announced that it would reintroduce regulations to remove SA's GM moratorium from the mainland, with the moratorium to remain on Kangaroo Island until 2025. These regulations came into effect on January 1 2020. These regulations may be subject to a disallowance motion of SA Parliament, which would have the effect of reintroducing the GM moratorium.
The Independent Review
The Government’s decision to restrict the moratorium to Kangaroo Island comes after an independent review by Professor Kym Anderson 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 has 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 findings 2.2 and 4.4 respectively.
Parliamentary Select Committee
A Parliamentary Select Committee has been considering the moratorium since it was established in August 2018. This inquiry is separate to the Independent Review conducted by Professor Kym Anderson.
The Select Committee released its report on October 28 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.
GPSA has been fully engaged with the Select Committee, including by making a submission and giving evidence at a public hearing.
The Select Committee's findings were inconclusive as to whether any changes should be made to the moratorium.
The Committee's members were:
- The Hon John Darley MLC (Ind)
- The Hon Mark Parnell MLC (Greens)
- The Hon John Dawkins MLC (Liberal)
- The Hon Emily Bourke MLC (Labor)
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.
The consensus at the Forum was that section 4 of the Genetically Modified Crops Management Regulations 2008 ought to be amended to limit the moratorium to Kangaroo Island only (as shown):
4—Designation of area in which cultivation of genetically modified food crops is prohibited
Pursuant to section 5(1)(a)(ii) of the Act,
the whole of the State Kangaroo Island is designated as an area in which no genetically modified food crops may be cultivated.
On 19 March 2019 GPSA wrote to the Hon Tim Whetstone MP, the Minister for Primary Industries and Regional Development outlining this recommendation.
On 19 August 2019, Minister Whetstone announced that the Government would restrict the moratorium to Kangaroo Island, triggering a six-week consultation process. This announcement mirrors GPSA’s policy proposal to accommodate the geographically and economically unique circumstances of Kangaroo Island growers.
In accordance with the Genetically Modified Crops Management Act 2004, 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.
On 10 October, the Governor, acting on the advice of Minister Whetstone, gazetted changes to the Genetically Modified Crops Management Regulations in line with GPSA's proposal. These regulations were proposed to come into effect on 1 December and would have removed SA's GM moratorium from the mainland.
More information on the consultation process, including the draft regulations, is available on the PIRSA website.
On 27 November the Legislative Council blocked revised regulations which would have removed SA's GM moratorium from the mainland.
On 2 December, the Marshall Government announced that it would introduce legislation to remove SA's GM moratorium from the mainland.
On 10 December, the Marshall Government's legislation to remove SA's GM moratorium from the mainland was defeated by a vote of Parliament's Legislative Council.
On 19 December, the Marshall Government announced that it would reintroduce regulations to remove SA's GM moratorium from the mainland on January 1 2020
What this means for growers
The moratorium will be lifted on mainland SA on January 1, however this could be removed by a subsequent disallowance motion when Parliament resumes in February.
GPSA will continue discussions with the Labor Party to bridge the political divide and get Parliament to #backtheGMbill to ensure a lasting solution. Growers can be assured that GPSA will continue to put a strong case forward that reform in this area is long-overdue.
Lifting the moratorium on Kangaroo Island before 1 September 2025
GPSA has recommended that further consultation with KI primary producers occur 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.
All policy points