Review of SA’s GM crop moratorium
Growers on mainland SA will have access to GM crops for the first time, following the State Government’s announcement that the GM crop moratorium will be restricted to Kangaroo Island.
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 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.
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 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.
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 gazetted changes to the Genetically Modified Crops Management Regulations in line with GPSA's proposal. These regulations are proposed to come into effect on 1 December and will restrict the GM moratorium to Kangaroo Island.
Any changes to the regulations is subject to a disallowance motion of either house of Parliament.
More information on the consultation process, including the draft regulations, is available on the PIRSA website.
What this means for growers
If the regulations are upheld, growers on mainland South Australia will have the freedom to grow the cereal, legume and oilseed varieties that best fit their farming system from early December 2019.
The moratorium will continue to apply to growers on Kangaroo Island until 1 September 2025.
Lifting the moratorium on Kangaroo Island before 1 September 2025
GPSA understands that the Government will be able to lift the moratorium on Kangaroo Island before its expiry in 2025 by changing the regulations, in a similar way to what is currently proposed.
GPSA has recommended that further consultation with local 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.
Any future changes will attract the same mandatory six-week consultation period, and are subject to a disallowance motion of either house of Parliament.
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