GM crop ban in South Australia likely to be extended to 2025

The ban on genetically modified crops being grown in South Australia looks likely to be extended to 2025, after the state’s Parliament passed key legislation last week.

A Bill by the Greens to extend the statewide moratorium on growing GM crops to 2025 passed the upper house of the South Australian Parliament by one vote on Wednesday night.

The Bill passed with the support of the Labour Government and two minor parties, and now needs to be passed by the lower house by the end of the year to take effect.

This new development means the moratorium on growing any biotech crops commercially will be extended for an additional six years, previous moratoriums have been for five years.

If the Greens’ Bill is passed in the lower house, which appears likely, it will require an act of parliament to lift the ban.

Presently the moratorium is governed by the Genetically Modified Crops Management Regulations 2008, which can be changed by the Government.

These regulations were created under the Genetically Modified Crops Management Act 2004, and would have remained in place until their expiry in September 2019.

Greens SA parliamentary leader and upper house member who introduced the bill, Mark Parnell, claimed the GM crop ban in South Australia provided a “significant price premium for our state’s farmers compared to GM crops grown in other states”.

Mr Parnell was “delighted that with the support of the Labor Government”, the moratorium was secured for an additional six years.

“The passage of my Bill means any decision to lift the moratorium before September 1, 2025, will require the support of both houses of Parliament,” he said.

Grain Producers South Australia was outraged they were not consulted about the moratorium extension and said it affected more than just grain growers.

GPSA chair and Parilla farmer Wade Dabinett said extended moratorium makes South Australian growers less competitive to farmers in other states, such as Victoria.

South Australia is the only mainland state which still prohibits GM crops. The moratorium on growing GM crops was lifted in NSW and Victoria in 2008, and in Western Australia in 2010.

Only GM crops approved by the Office of the Gene Technology Regulator can be grown, these include cotton and canola.

Mr Dabinett said the ban meant apple growers in the state would not have access to new biotech varieties such as the “Artic apple”, which does not brown when cut and exposed to oxygen and is currently being grown in the US.

Opposition South Australian agriculture spokesman David Ridgeway labelled the moratoria extension as “crazy” and said the decision about whether GM crops should be allowed, should be left to experts and not the Parliament.

He said if the Liberal Party won the next election it would commission an expert study on the issue to examine the potential costs and benefits of growing GM crops in the state.

“I want to make sure we make decisions on the best possible information and not on ideologically-driven idea,” Mr Ridgeway said.

South Australian Agriculture Minister Leon Bignall did not respond before publication deadline.

Chemical lobby group CropLife slammed the decision saying: “South Australian farmers will continue to be shackled by narrow, misguided, anti-science party politics for a further six years”.

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