Legislative Council

GREENS BILL: Extension of GM crops moratorium

October 18th, 2017

On the 18th of October, Mark introduced the Greens Private Members Bill, Genetically Modified Crops Management Regulations (Postponement of Expiry) Bill 2017.

The Hon. M.C. PARNELL: Of all the things that future generations might thank us for or curse us for, one of the things that I think they will thank us for is that here in South Australia we have maintained a ban—or a moratorium, if you like—on the commercial growing of genetically modified crops. I think they will thank us for that, because all of the evidence suggests that there is likely to be great benefit to South Australia in economic terms if we do maintain that ban.

That is not just my say-so; that is actually the evidence that is presented daily in the various market reports for agricultural crops. It is also the conclusion of a number of academic institutions that have looked into this. Before I go into that evidence, I just want to quickly outline why I am using a bill to postpone the expiry of a regulation, because it is an odd thing to do, but it is an important thing to do.

Members would know that we have had a regime for some years now to try to keep our subordinate legislation relevant, that if you do nothing in relation to a regulation it expires after 10 years. There is a provision that you can actually extend it. I think you can extend it twice, but ultimately, to avoid having obsolete regulations on the statute books, they expire after 10 years. You do not have to do anything. They just disappear; they just fade away into the ether.

This moratorium in South Australia on the growing of genetically modified commercial crops will expire on 1 September 2019. It will expire even if nobody does anything. It might be able to be extended, but if no-one does anything it will expire. If it expires, the protection that other farmers and other industries have against the encroachment of genetically modified crops will disappear. So this is an important measure.

My bill proposes to extend the moratorium to the year 2025. I have chosen that date because that puts us into the next political cycle; in other words, after this election in March and then after the following election. If we do not do that, halfway through the next term of parliament, the moratorium will disappear if nobody does anything. If we pass this bill, it will require an act of parliament to effectively lift the moratorium. It is a protective measure. It does not change anything on the ground today. The moratorium exists today, it exists tomorrow, it will exist next year, it will exist up until 1 September 2019 and then it will disappear if we do not pass this bill or if whoever the government of the day is does not remake or extend those regulations.

I said that there was evidence that South Australian farmers are benefiting commercially from the genetically modified crops moratorium, and my evidence for that is that as recently as last week an analysis of the rural press shows that GM-free canola, in other words, not genetically modified canola, was attracting a price premium of $51 a tonne in Victoria, $37 a tonne in New South Wales, in Western Australia it was $19 to $28 a tonne—this is the extra the farmers get who are not growing GM crops—and South Australia was similar to regional Victoria.

So, there is a price premium, and the charts in the Weekly Times and elsewhere—the chart I have in front of me from late September has $40 a tonne in Victoria, it looks like South Australia is similar and in New South Wales $11 is one figure, so it changes, but you get more money for not growing GM crops.

I mentioned academic reports, and one that is important here is the University of Adelaide in June last year produced a report, entitled 'Identification and Assessment of Added-Value Export Market Opportunities for Non-GMO Labelled Food Products from South Australia'. That is the University of Adelaide Centre for Global Food and Resources. This was a report they prepared for government. They prepared this report for the Department of Primary Industries and Regions. Just to quote a few lines from this report, their review shows that:

Global food trends indicate that discerning consumers are increasingly seeking foods that are 'naturally healthy', have a 'clean' label with simple ingredients (that include GM-free), and have identifiable provenance that links consumers to producers.

I think the government knows that. It has been part of the government's marketing strategy for food for some time. The university's report goes into some detail about the target market of the United States, the target market of China, and I will quote one more from the executive summary in this report. They say:

The study team concluded that there are opportunities for added-value returns for Non-GMO-labelled food products from South Australia, but that based on identified global food trends: the greater opportunity lies in promoting a broad-based platform of 'naturally healthy' products (that are GM-free) from South Australia with claims that can be underpinned by traceability and verification systems.

It sounds complex, but what it means is that, once you let GMO into one part of the state, even if it does not have any physical impact on another part of the state, kiss goodbye to the state's reputation as being GM-free. The ability of people on Kangaroo Island, in the Barossa or elsewhere to label their cheese, milk, grapes, wine, whatever it is, as coming from a GM-free region is identified as being an ongoing marketing advantage that we do not want to lightly throw away.

So, it is a simple bill; it ensures that the moratorium will stay in place for another six years beyond their expiry in 2019, so that brings us to 2025, and it ensures that whoever the government is, either in the next term or the term after that, if they want to (in my mind, foolishly) go down the path of genetically modified crops for South Australia, then at least parliament will have the chance to debate that measure. I commend the bill to the house.

For more information see a copy of the Bill

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