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.
The Independent Review
The Government’s decision 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 formal written submissions will be accepted by PIRSA.
Public meetings will be held in:
- Thursday 19 September - 2:30pm to 4pm
- Aurora Ozone Hotel
- The Foreshore, 67 Chapman Terrace, Kingscote, Kangaroo Island
- Friday 20 September - 9am to 10:30am
- SARDI Plant Research Centre
- 2B Hartley Grove, Urrbrae
- Level 4 - Auditorium
The statutory consultation commenced on 19 August 2019, with submissions to inform the new regulations accepted until 5pm, 30 September 2019.
Following statutory consultation, amendments to the regulations will be recommended to the Governor of South Australia taking into account feedback received. It is proposed changes to the regulations will be operational in early December 2019 to enable producers to make decisions about their crops in 2020.
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.
The Parliamentary Select Committee on the Cultivation of Genetically Modified Crops in South Australia is currently considering its draft report after over a year of operation. This inquiry is a separate and independent of the Government’s own process.
This timing of the Government’s announcement is critical to ensuring that mainland producers are in a position to choose suitable GM varieties that fit their farming system for 2020.
GPSA has been fully engaged with the Select Committee, including by making a submission and giving evidence at a public hearing.
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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