Bipartisanship on GM regulation opens new opportunities for South Australian farmers

The National Farmers’ Federation has welcomed a long-awaited decision by the South Australian Parliament to lift the moratorium on commercial cultivation of GM crops on mainland South Australia.

Following passage of the Genetically Modified Crops Management (Designated Area) Amendment Bill this afternoon, South Australian farmers will finally have the ability to grow the same crops as their mainland interstate counterparts.

NFF Chief Executive Tony Mahar said the decision had been a long time coming.

“The current moratorium has been in place for 16 years, and has been the subject of extensive debate and analysis.

“Today’s decision is a significant win for South Australian farmers, and will provide them the freedom of choice to grow the crops that best suit their production systems – including GM varieties that have been approved as safe by our science-based regulators.”

NFF member organisation Primary Producers South Australia and their commodity affiliate Grain Producers South Australia have worked tirelessly on this issue, and Mr Mahar said they were to be congratulated on what was a great outcome for their members.

“Access to approved GM crop varieties has brought benefits to growers across the country, and there is great potential to expand the development and use of these technologies to meet future challenges in agricultural productivity and environmental sustainability.

“The NFF is excited to see South Australian farmers poised to be able to choose GM varieties their mainland counterparts have had access to for many years,” Mr Mahar said.

“The NFF strongly supports the right of Australian farmers to adopt safe and effective production methods and technologies best suited to their business needs – be that GM, conventional, organic or any combination of these methods.

“Today’s decision will level the playing field for mainland Australian grain growers.”

A 2019 independent review of South Australia’s moratorium revealed the ban had cost SA grain growers at least $33 million since 2004, with an additional $5 million in losses predicted if the moratorium was to remain to 2025.

Bipartisan agreement was reached with the SA Government accepting amendments proposed by the Labor opposition. The amendments will give local councils a time-limited ability to apply to the Minister for Primary Industries for designation as a GM-free area for trade and marketing purposes.

The moratorium on GM cultivation will remain on Kangaroo Island.

“Unfortunately, the timing of the decision comes too late for the 2020 canola planting season, but growers can now plan for the 2021 winter cropping season with certainty,” Mr Mahar said.

“We congratulate the South Australian Parliament on this decision, which will support South Australian farmers to get on with doing what they do best, without unnecessary regulatory restrictions.”

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