GREENS BILL: Extension of GM crops moratorium passes SA Parliament
November 15th, 2017
On the 15th of November, Mark brought his Greens Private Members Bill - Genetically Modified Crops Management Regulations (Postponement of Expiry) Bill 2017 - to a vote.
Despite strenuous opposition by the Liberals alongside the Australian Conservative, the Bill was passed with the support of Labor, Dignity and Advance SA Parties. Below is a transcript of the debate and voting record.
On the 28th of November, the Bill was then passed in the House of Assembly. A copy of the transcript of the debate is reproduced below.
A link to Mark's second reading speech on 18 October 2017 and a copy of the Bill is at the bottom of the page.
Adjourned debate on second reading.
(Continued from 18 October 2017.)
The Hon. D.W. RIDGWAY (Leader of the Opposition) (21:09): I rise with a degree of pleasure to speak on behalf of the opposition and indicate at the outset that we will be opposing the bill to extend the moratorium on GM crops until 2025, and also the intention of the bill for it to be made a decision of the parliament to overturn that moratorium. I am also aware that the government has filed some amendments to extend that moratorium for 10 years to 2028 and indicate that we will also be opposing that amendment. I indicate at the outset of this debate that, from the opposition's point of view, it is interesting to see that we now have a clear position from the government in relation to their policy on the GM moratorium.
The Hon. Tung Ngo, in the most recent debate in relation to planning, said that agriculture and primary production was an important and critical driver of the South Australian economy, yet his government, the government he represents in this chamber, is prepared to extend the moratorium for 20 years from when it was first introduced without any sensible or accurate or expert review.
The opposition's policy, if we are elected to government, is that one of the first jobs I would do as the minister for agriculture would be to commission a high-level expert review of our position, and we would do that within the first six months of the moratorium that we have had now for 10 years. The government often says and mostly through its spokesman, the Hon. Leon Bignell, that we get this wonderful premium for all of our production because we are GM free, yet he has not been able to produce any quantifiable evidence of the magnitude of that benefit.
I was on 891 radio with the Hon. Mark Parnell several Mondays ago, when I mentioned our position to David Bevan, the 891 presenter and he said, 'That's just a cop out. Why don't you make a decision?' In the next few minutes, I will outline why it is not possible. He suggested, 'Why don't you have a parliamentary select committee.' He then went on to say we all get paid heaps extra to be on parliamentary committees and indicated that we all had lots of spare time and we could investigate this on a parliamentary committee. I will indicate that it is not possible to look at all the aspects of a GM moratorium with a parliamentary committee.
We all know that we come into this place with a level of expertise that we bring to parliament. The Labor Party are a little bit narrow, mostly sort of union bovver boys and party apparatchiks; nonetheless, they would say they have a little bit of a diverse background. If you look at it from a scientific point of view, we have the Hon. Ian Hunter who has a science degree. The Hon. Mark Parnell has a law degree—
The Hon. M.C. Parnell interjecting:
The Hon. D.W. RIDGWAY: —and an economics degree and a planning degree. We always look to the Hon. Mark Parnell when it comes to listening to his debates on planning because he is an expert in that area. We have a couple of farmers: the Hon. Robert Brokenshire, myself and the Hon. John Dawkins was involved in agriculture many years ago—
The Hon. P. Malinauskas: You are a politician. You are not a farmer.
The PRESIDENT: Order!
The Hon. D.W. RIDGWAY: —prior to coming into parliament. It is interesting, Mr President. I see you have twin heads. I am not sure. They do not look alike those two heads, that is for sure. I am not sure which one is the best looking. You two can decide that. I say that the parliament is not a place to make these very detailed scientific evaluations. Often political decisions and decisions are made here for reasons other than the actual facts. I do not believe that you can handle this in a parliamentary sense whether it is a select committee, a standing committee of the parliament or to have that decision here in the parliament.
I will go through some of the comments that were made by the Hon. Mark Parnell. Often we are a bit focused on the current situation where we have GM canola available in all states and not here, and that is why we need to get the experts to do the review. The Hon. Mark Parnell did indicate and show a bit of, shall I be so rude to say, ignorance about farming systems and farming practices. He looks at the price of canola in isolation. When you are farming, you may have a four, five or six-year rotation. You may actually choose to grow a crop, mow the paddock or spray it as a chemical fallow so that you grow a better crop the year after and you control weeds in subsequent crops. So it is actually a five or six year rotation.
Particularly with the GM canola, farmers grow it to control weeds. It is not to make it an extra profitable crop, but it is a rotation and a management tool that canola is used for.
The Hon. R.L. Brokenshire: Clean up weeds, that's right.
The Hon. D.W. RIDGWAY: And it cleans up some weeds. There are people who use it not to make money but as an important tool in their rotation program. Modern farming systems are not all about each crop making the most money; it is about making sure you get the best possible income over a range of seasons and the best possible way to control some weeds. Often what we find with Roundup Ready canola is it is a much easier and cheaper chemical and less environmentally damaging than some of the chemicals you might use in the lentil crop or a wheat crop or some other crop that you may grow. So you cannot just look at it in isolation.
One of the debates that is often used and also why we need the high-level review, because I am not a scientist—we all get bits of information—
The Hon. J.E. Hanson: No!
The Hon. D.W. RIDGWAY: The Hon. Justin Hanson jokes. That is the reason why this is a flawed plan. You are making a joke of an issue that is not a joke at all, the Hon. Mr Hanson. This is a serious part of modern agriculture.
When you look at farming operations, people say, 'They are going to be beholden to the big companies—Monsanto, Bayer and all the others.' Most farms—and the Hon. Robert Brokenshire would attest to it—are very complex businesses. Many often turn over at the very least hundreds of thousands of dollars, if not in some cases million of dollars. They actually make business decisions based on what is the best for their business to return a profit, pay the bank, pay all the costs and try to actually get ahead.
The Hon. R.L. Brokenshire: And look after the environment.
The Hon. D.W. RIDGWAY: And look after the environment, too. To say that people would be beholden to the big chemical companies, I think is a little bit flawed. Again, it is why we need the independent review that we would set up if we are elected next year to actually have a look at all of the facts.
It is interesting; I note that the government and the Hon. Mr Parnell—I nearly called him a minister then—refers to the government inquiry. Well, it wasn't a government inquiry, but there was some sort of research commissioned by PIRSA, I think, and the University of Adelaide. I have the executive summary and recommendations here. It interests me a little because certainly they do talk about the world interest in clean and green food. I am sure that is why the government has premium food from a clean environment. The recommendations, which I think are important, state:
1. Invite SA businesses interviewed as part of the study to a presentation and discussion of the findings.
2. Liaise with Food SA to include the findings in industry workshops it will be conducting as part of developing their ‘Growth through Innovation Strategy’.
3. Depending on sufficient industry support, provide a briefing to relevant Government Ministers on the findings and implications for Government policies and programs.
I would be interested to know whether any of those three recommendations have been implemented and where the thought from the government came to actually amend this bill to extend the moratorium until 2028, because clearly you do not actually have a government policy that is unreviewed and not looked at for more than two decades.
This government had review after review after review. We had the Menadue review into health that did not mention anything about building a great new hospital. Five or six years later the government decided to build a $2.3 billon hospital. There is a whole range of things that this government has done, but they have neglected every aspect of this particular sector.
They had this particular review, looked at it and then decided that they were not interested in progressing it any further. In fact, my understanding is that that particular review went up on the PIRSA website and then came down again and then went up again a few weeks later.
Again, it is why after a decade we think it is appropriate to take a breath and have a look at the benefits we are getting, if the minister claims we are getting all of these wonderful benefits. It is interesting that we have one of the world's leading research centres at the Waite but we have seen nothing but a flood of people leaving that facility. Researchers are leaving. It is one of the world's great grain research facilities.
The Hon. R.L. Brokenshire: Where is this?
The Hon. D.W. RIDGWAY: At the Waite. Of course, we have also had the government, under the leadership of the Hon. Gail Gago, when she was the member, reduce the funding for the Centre for Plant Functional Genomics by about $1.2 million. One of the industry advocates writes:
We are very fortunate that Adelaide is home to the world-renowned Waite research precinct however support for it from state and federal governments is dwindling. And to make matters worse, because of the GM moratorium in SA, we are now seeing money from the private sector for research and development going interstate instead of being spent locally.
Again, it is time to have a look at the moratorium and the benefits that the minister and Premier Weatherill claim that we get and see whether they are in the best interests of South Australia. We also need to look at the future. If we are right now at the crossroads of 10 years of a moratorium, and the government's amendment will not extend it for another 10 years, we are at the halfway point of a 20 year journey, if the government's amendment is successful. I think we need to look to the future, and that is where you need experts. In 10 years' time, the Hons. Tung Ngo, Justin Hanson, Kyam Maher and Michelle Lensink might still be here, but pretty much I think the rest of us will be retired.
An honourable member: Not Mr Lucas, surely?
The Hon. D.W. RIDGWAY: The Hon. Rob Lucas may still be here, getting his third wind. Having said that, it is important to get the experts to have a look at the future, and some of the future things are really worth looking at.
Something that I think is quite topical and interests me as a South Australian is the medical use of cannabis. I have the view that, in terms of any plant that grows in the world, if we can take something out of it that helps human health and mankind, we should actually do it. I am told—but again I am not a scientist—that there are hundreds of different strains of cannabis. Some are good for epilepsy, some are good for Alzheimer's, some are good for dementia, and some are good for cancer and pain relief. However, we need to do decades of testing and research to find out which are the particular ones that have the chemical make-up to provide the best outcomes.
We may well find that, to fast track that, those plants will need to be genetically modified. Once we have identified what we need to do, we may find that that is required. Again, that is why we need the experts to have a look at this. There is some other great work being done. Canola is likely to become available soon that, I am told, contains very high levels of omega-3 oil, which is what we see in fish. I have an article that states:
When you do the calculations, if you can achieve 12 per cent levels of DHA in the canola oil, then one hectare of this crop can meet the same production levels produced by 10,000 ocean fish. And we couldn't have achieved this using conventional plant breeding methods.
Is that a crop we can grow in South Australia? Can the experts look at it and give some advice to government about whether in the next 10 years it will be worth growing? Maybe it is not worth it. As I said, I am not a scientist and I do not know. We have no scientists in this chamber who are specialists in this particular highly specialised field.
The issue of climate change I know is very dear to the Hon. Mark Parnell's heart. I think we all see extremes in weather. We see the hottest, the wettest, the driest, the windiest somewhere in Australia each year. I have been a farmer who has experienced the devastation of a frost. Droughts are easy enough to live with, in one sense—it is not going to rain and you know there is nothing coming. A frost is when the crop grows really well and then there is a little bit of a dry spell, and you get a cold night, a cold change, and the frost comes in and you lose an entire crop of barley, wheat or canola.
There is potential—and, again, that is why we need experts to have a look at this—for frost and drought tolerance to be put into our mainstream crops such as wheat and barley. I am so nervous because it is such a risky thing to extend the moratorium until 2028 without having a look at the halfway point to ask: is this the best thing going forward? Are there some opportunities for South Australian primary producers to cope with climate change and some of the variabilities we are likely to see?
There are other things, too. I think that there is potential in lucerne and rye-grass, which give particular traits of extra production per hectare, digestibility and a whole range of other particular benefits. Again, we should get the experts to look at that to make sure that, if we extend the moratorium, we are not denying our primary producers something that every other primary producer in the nation will have. I have been looking at some information in a publication that talks about the commercialised crops. I will read a couple of passages from it:
There is evidence that the GM crops being grown around the world today have lowered farm-level production costs. Other significant benefits include:
•higher crop yields
•increased farm profit
•improvements in soil health
•reduced CO2 emissions from cropping.
It then goes on to talk about crops in the pipeline. Again, I am no scientist, so I actually want the experts to have a look at these statements and do some analysis to see whether it is sensible to continue the moratorium and whether or not it is a benefit financially. I know there is a lot of work being done on potatoes and grapes around disease resistance. I know there is some research being done on allergen-free nuts. At nearly all the primary schools in South Australia kids cannot have nuts at school, so I suspect there are some benefits.
They are saying that some work is underway to boost the levels of carotenoids, which are the yellow and orange pigments found in plants. They can be converted into vitamin A, which is essential for normal growth and development, immune system function and vision. Antioxidants can protect the body by neutralising the activity of free radicals. It also talks about essential fatty acids, and it goes on and on. It states that research is also continuing on new and improved crops with agronomic traits, including corn, which of course we do not grow here, as well as canola and a couple of others, including wheat and barley.
It is clear to me that we are not equipped with the expertise, not even in a parliamentary committee. We have all been on them, and there are one or two people who are really focused and passionate, and the rest are just there toeing the party line and being the ones who make up the numbers. To me, it is absolutely the wrong thing to do to give the parliament the control over whether or not we extend the moratorium. I cannot believe a government that says that the food sector is one of its seven strategic economic priorities, yet it does not consult. It is a bit like the old 'announce and defend'.
There has been zero consultation with industry to say that the government has put on the table their policy that we are going to extend this moratorium until 2028—a 20-year moratorium without talking to industry at all. I guess that encapsulates a statement the Premier made a few weeks ago when he said, 'They really don't vote for us out there in the country, so we are not interested in their views.' That is disgraceful. It is the one industry that was here: this state was founded on agriculture. It is a disgraceful and arrogant statement that the Premier made in that particular interview around GM. It is a disgrace to go to a 20-year moratorium without any proper scientific review that this is the best thing to do for South Australian farmers and our economy.
I know the Hon. Mark Parnell and some of the people who share his view say, 'These things are not safe. We are putting these strange, different things and genes into plants.' We do not get the parliament of any country to decide whether a new drug is safe to be released to the community; we have the experts do that. There is scientific analysis, it goes through a testing regime and then a recommendation is made for a new drug, and this is no different. The parliament does not have the expertise to do this particular analysis.
I guess we are all very uncertain about what the next parliament may look like. There may be some members of this chamber who may not be here after the next election, and I am sure there will also be some in the next chamber. I am sure the Hon. Mark Parnell will say, 'Yes, but if really good information came to hand then the Greens would be prepared to consider it,' but we do not know what the make-up of the parliament will be. Are any scientists going to be standing for election for the Legislative Council? I doubt it. I am not sure we are going to get too many more people who have had any practical experience in farming.
From a practical point of view, I am not sure that any of the candidates I am aware of come with that skill set. To me and to the Liberal Party, it is absolutely time to have the proper scientific review to try to quantify it. I have been on the radio and the television saying, 'If there's a quantifiable benefit that we can measure and say we are getting $10 million, $20 million, $30 million or $40 million a year benefit, then let's measure it and make that judgement based on that particular information.'
We do not have that and certainly the parliament is not the place to make that judgement. To go for 17 years, as the Hon. Mark Parnell wishes to do, or 20 years, as the government wants to do, with no review and no expert involvement, that to me says to the farming community, 'Here we are: there are 22 of us. You get stuffed. We know best.'
I am not prepared to stand up for that. It is not worth the risk of locking our farmers out of the review and it is not worth the risk, not knowing what the next parliament is going to be like. We have no idea what members will be here. I do not want to be one of the members of this parliament who says, 'The 22 of us, we know better. We are not interested in having a review and having a good look at what the facts are.' I think we are failing the primary production sector of our state in a big way if we do not actually implement and have a review.
With those words—I cannot speak strongly enough—I indicate that we will be opposing the bill and we will be opposing the government's amendments, and I encourage other members to do the same. It is simply not worth the risk.
The Hon. R.L. BROKENSHIRE (21:31): I will try to be more brief than the Leader of the Opposition. Firstly, I appreciate and respect the reasons that the Hon. Mark Parnell has put this particular proposal to the parliament. He has been consistent and I would expect that from the Greens. I have respect for the Hon. Mark Parnell. He is a good man. I am happy to contribute to this debate.
I want to place a few things on the record. There is a study being conducted by Mecardo industry analysis that is comparing the price differentials between the states for GM and non-GM products. I will put to the parliament in a moment some preliminary comparisons—I am advised that they are still to be finalised—of agricultural commodity prices between South Australia and other states. They do not show any evidence of a price premium for South Australia, being non-GM, over other states for like-for-like products.
Interestingly, today, I have been looking at all of the traders, because one thing my family still gives me the opportunity to do is to make a decision on when we do trade. We have canola sitting at Port Adelaide and Tailem Bend right now and we have to make a decision on where we are going to trade. It is disgraceful that today I also had to sign a sustainable canola declaration to actually show that we have the cleanest, greenest, most sustainable canola in the world, but we do not get any more money for it. We get diddly squat more. In Victoria, just over the border, they get more. I will come back to that in a moment.
In spite of what the minister for primary industries, Leon Bignell, espouses on the radio and elsewhere about South Australia getting this beautiful price for being GM, first, he has not shown any evidence and, second, it does not happen, and I cannot see that it is going to happen. On the other hand, he talks on behalf of his government about climate change and the like. It becomes very frustrating and confusing for farmers because one thing that GM can do is to address food shortages if there is to be climate change. People do not want to take a tablet, as we saw in movies about the future when we were kids at school, that you could take one tablet a day and you would not have to have any other food intake. That does not happen in reality. As they experiment with synthetic food, I would suggest to you that synthetic food is going to be much more of a concern than GM.
Both GM and non-GM products can be produced in the same state, even on neighbouring farms, and can be segregated through the entire supply chain. That is a statement of fact. It happens in Western Australia, Victoria and other states, and it happens across the world. I have a photo here, which I seek leave to table, a photograph entitled 'Simply canola oil'.
The Hon. R.L. BROKENSHIRE: That was taken at the Maitland Sporting Club on the Yorke Peninsula, the best malt barley growing region in the world. Their 20-litre canola oil containers are imported through Singapore, from multiple origins, including Canada, which grows and exports GM canola. Therefore, in tabling this, I am saying that many GM products are already available in South Australia and are sold here, despite the moratorium.
The irony of it is that, as with the example of the GM canola that I have just tabled, I am advised that the hybrid seed for that GM canola for Canada, which is belting us around the ears at the moment when it comes to infiltrating our export markets and making it harder for South Australian farmers, is grown in the South-East and is then exported to Canada, where they then grow GM canola. Where the hell are we as a state?
I also advise members that, if you look at trade lamb saleyards, Victoria has a 3 per cent premium over long term to South Australia. Look at the saleyards for trade steers: Victoria holds a 3.5 per cent premium over long term. This is a state that has GM, and they get a 3 per cent premium to their farmers on prime lambs, trade lambs and on trade steers. Canola in Geelong holds a $7.80 premium over Adelaide. Canola in Kwinana holds a $30 premium over Adelaide, minus receivals of $17.70—nevertheless, still a premium.
Wheat: Geelong holds an $8.90 premium over Adelaide and wheat in Kwinana holds a $25 premium over Adelaide, minus a receival of $10.80. There are premiums at times, however, on average where there is no apparent premium, and I acknowledge that when it comes back to farm gate, to the grower, but they are short lived. But when a short-lived premium does occur, it is as a result of supply and demand.
I will finish with a couple more points, and that is that farmers in South Australia have led the world on dry farming technology. Before we went to no-till and continuous cropping, regularly we saw dust drift right over Adelaide and we saw drift on the roads to the point where graders were out in the Murray Mallee grading the roads, the Karoonda Highway, from Tailem Bend through to Loxton—graders out there grading so that vehicles could actually pass.
Farmers used to build their fences—and I was involved in this as a young kid and was taught how to do it—on a base fence so that you could lift up the fence as the drift came in. That is how you built your fences. We do not do that any more because farming practices have changed. When it comes to things like omega-3, there is unbelievable research and development occurring at the moment where they may be able to improve canola, with genetic modification, so that it will have huge benefits with omega-3, something that is essential to life.
When you look at the challenges of Third World countries, when you look at the fact that we have to double food production by 2040, I think it is, to even allow people to enjoy the food supply they have around the world now, notwithstanding that my goal as a food producer and the goal of my family as farmers is to ensure that those people who are dying of starvation at the moment can be fed, and that would make for a safer world, a happier world and a world that was more integrated.
One of the ways through this may well be genetic modification. So, to extend that opportunity further out to protect and enhance all that I have highlighted tonight would, in my opinion and that of our party, be wrong. Therefore, whilst we look forward to whoever is in government early in the next term having a proper debate on this, I would say at this stage, from all the time I spend with farmers right across the state, that the absolute majority of the farmers actually want an opportunity to make a bottom line profit and to continue to grow food. It is getting harder and tougher—much harder and tougher.
People in Adelaide expect to have food because it is an essential input cost to them. Governments do not like farmgate prices going up because that upsets their CPI and their lack of ability to manage within their budgets, so they definitely do not want to see improved farmgate prices. The bottom line is that we do need to, once and for all, come to a decision on this. I acknowledge that there is an element of the farming sector that is concerned but, from what I can see, the absolute majority of farmers at this point want genetically modified opportunities on their farms, and they want to be on a par with opportunities in other states in Australia.
We are already the driest state in the driest continent in the world; we are punching above our weight. Let's give our farmers a chance. Let's have a serious and intelligent debate early in the next term and come to a landing. Let's listen and involve the farmers and their peak organisations. To simply extend it out would not be the right decision, and therefore we will be opposing this proposal from the Greens.
The Hon. T.T. NGO (21:41): South Australia is one of the few jurisdictions in the world to be phylloxera free, fruit fly free and have a moratorium on growing genetically modified (GM) food crops. These credentials give the state's primary producers and food and beverage manufacturers a competitive marketing advantage in the global marketplace. South Australia is the only remaining mainland state in Australia to prohibit the commercial cultivation of GM food crops. This non-GM status is one of several elements that underpin our global reputation as a supplier of premium food and wine from our clean environment.
Our position is consistent with the national gene technology regulatory system, which allows states to prohibit the growing of GM crops to protect their market position. This is exactly what we have done in South Australia so that our $18.6 billion agriculture, food and beverage industry is in the best position to capitalise on the growing global demand for non-GM foods. This is not just our government's view. A University of Adelaide research report indicates that the global market for non-GM labelled foods and beverages is growing significantly. It is estimated that the global non-GM trade will double by 2019 from $678 million in 2014 to around $1.2 billion, creating further export market opportunities for South Australia.
The university research found that there is particularly strong demand for non-GM foods in the US and China, the largest and fastest growing markets for South Australian food and wine. This report also identifies South Australia's moratorium on growing GM food crops as one of several assets available to our state that could be used to capitalise on food export market opportunities. South Australia's non-GM status has attracted international investment, acting as a strong drawcard for Japan-based Hirata Industries, which has come to South Australia to import non-GM canola from Kangaroo Island.
Currently, the only GM food crop approved for commercial use that would be suitable in South Australia is canola. South Australia's annual canola crop averages $183 million. By protecting against non-GM canola, we are also protecting the field crop industry as a whole, which averages a value of $2 billion at the farm gate per year. In considering the impact of the GM moratorium on the state as a whole, it is imperative that we consider the broader direct and indirect implications introducing GM food crops would have on the state's entire food production system.
I believe this bill would extend these regulations until 2025. Extending the regulations would provide greater certainty to our international trading partners and industry and enable South Australia to maintain its market position as a producer of premium food and to respond to the expected increase in global demand for non-GM food. Therefore, the government will support this bill but intends to move a minor amendment in the committee stage to extend the expiry of the regulations for a further three years until 2028.
The Hon. J.A. DARLEY (21:45): This bill will extend the current moratorium on growing genetically-modified crops in South Australia. At present the moratorium is due to expire in September 2019. I understand it is the Hon. Mark Parnell's intention to not only extend this expiration date but also to provide a mechanism whereby a parliamentary debate will occur should the decision to lift the moratorium be made.
This matter has been one of great conflict to me. The safety or hazards of GM crops have not been determined. Farmers argue that they want GM crops as they have a higher yield; however, I have received information to the contrary. I have spoken to a farmer who is concerned that the moratorium is a hindrance to South Australia because it may impede us from accessing new technologies which would be advantageous to the agricultural sector; however, I understand that by incorporating the moratorium into legislation rather than leaving it to regulation, it will provide any member of parliament with the opportunity to present a bill to remove the moratorium. This is in contrast to what would occur now, whereby the decision is entirely at the discretion of the government of the day.
Notwithstanding the above, I understand the moratorium is based on whether there is a marketing advantage to being GM free. I do not think there is any dispute that there is a worldwide marketing advantage to be able to say that products are from a state that is entirely GM free. As such I support the Hon. Mark Parnell's bill to extend the moratorium, but indicate that next year I will refer the matter of the GM moratorium to be investigated by a committee. I am not sure yet as to whether this would be referring the matter to one of the standing committees or establishing a select committee, but I am putting on the record that Advance SA believes this matter requires further investigation so that the parliament can make an informed decision about the matter.
The Hon. M.C. PARNELL (21:48): To sum up the debate, I would like to thank the four members who have made a contribution: the Hon. David Ridgway, the Hon. Tung Ngo, the Hon. John Darley and the Hon. Robert Brokenshire. A lot has been said in the last half an hour or so, and I do not intend to counter every single argument that was made. If people go back to my second reading contribution they will find that these issues were all covered. However, I cannot let it go through to the wicket-keeper without raising a few issues.
I will start with the Hon. David Ridgway. The essence of his contribution is that parliament is not the right place to make decisions about the future of South Australia in relation to this particular topic. He wants a high level, expert review and he has committed to one within six months. When you put those two things together, what the honourable member is saying is that the parliament is incapable of taking advice from experts, of undertaking reviews, of getting people in, grilling them about their positions, interrogating the science, and then coming up with findings and recommendations.
The Hon. John Darley understands that that is what parliament can do, and that is why I am very pleased that he is supporting the bill. I am happy to say on the record that I will get behind his commitment that this issue needs to go to a committee of parliament. I think it is an important issue and I think we need to investigate it.
But the Hon. John Darley put his finger on it in that, if we do not do anything, then all we have is a Liberal promise that they are going to have some sort of an expert inquiry. We do not know who is going to be on it, who is going to pick the experts, we do not know if it will be public or secret. We do not know what its terms of reference will be. At the end of the day, if the Liberal Party is in government and they decide to lift the moratorium, they do not actually have to do anything. They can just wait until 1 September comes around and the moratorium evaporates.
That is not a sensible way of making policy. A sensible way of making policy is what the Hon. John Darley suggested—a proper inquiry to get all the evidence in and, as the honourable member pointed out, if any member of parliament wants to come back and say, 'No, we think the moratorium is a bad idea. We think it is time that it was lifted,' they can bring it to parliament and parliament will decide. That is what we do in a democracy.
I cannot let this go through: the Hon. David Ridgway verballed me in relation to safety. If you look at the contribution I made, it was reflecting the law of the commonwealth which says that moratoriums at the state level exist as a result of economic and marketing advantages that the state believes it has. That is what I addressed in my second reading contribution. That is the basis of the current moratorium and it is the basis of keeping the moratorium going.
Other members, including the Hon. Robert Brokenshire, denied that there was any premium. Well, he is denying the weekly chart that appears in The Weekly Times newsletter which sets out in two columns—
The PRESIDENT: Order! No debate.
The Hon. M.C. PARNELL: It has the different prices—
The PRESIDENT: Order!
The Hon. M.C. PARNELL: —of GM and non-GM. The Hon. David Ridgway—
The Hon. D.W. Ridgway: Go and have a look.
The PRESIDENT: Stop verballing the Hon. Mr Parnell.
The Hon. M.C. PARNELL: —says that I do not understand farming. I have pointed out to members that the grain growers association, when grilled on radio, admitted that half their members want to keep the moratorium. Sure, half might want to lift it but half want to keep it. This is not as if it is some city versus country thing. It is not as if the farmers are completely unified in wanting GM and everyone else is against them, it is just not that way at all. You need to look at the evidence and hear what the farmers are actually saying. They admit that half their numbers do not want it.
The point is that once GM crops are allowed, what the Hon. Robert Brokenshire said I do not think is correct. He said, 'You can just keep it separated.' It does not work like that. It does not work like that in terms of the spread of material through wind and rain and animals, and it is by the side of the roads, the so-called volunteers that spill out of the side of trucks. Ultimately, you end up with mixed crops. Long term it is impossible to segregate them. That is the experience in other jurisdictions.
I will just finish my summing-up by saying two things. Firstly, in relation to the Hon. Tung Ngo's contribution, I am grateful that the government is going to be supporting this bill because that gives us the numbers to get this bill through this chamber tonight. He has indicated that the government's intention was to move an amendment to extend my bill even further with three years. I am relaxed with that. I am comfortable with extending it further. The principles stay the same. It will be a parliamentary decision, but the Hon. John Darley has expressed the view that he would rather stick with the original bill, and I think that is probably the way to proceed. As I said, I am relaxed about the government's amendment.
At the end of the day, the most important thing is that we put this important issue back in the hands of the people's representatives so that the moratorium does not just evaporate because a date on the calendar comes around. I am delighted that we have the numbers tonight and I look forward to the speedy passage of the bill through the committee stage and into law.
The council divided on the second reading:
Darley, J.A. Franks, T.A. Gazzola, J.M.
Hanson, J.E. Maher, K.J. Malinauskas, P.
Ngo, T.T. Parnell, M.C. (teller) Vincent, K.L.
Brokenshire, R.L. Dawkins, J.S.L. Hood, D.G.E.
Lensink, J.M.A. Lucas, R.I. Ridgway, D.W. (teller)
Stephens, T.J. Wade, S.G.
Gago, G.E. Lee, J.S. Hunter, I.K.
The CHAIR: Let's try to handle the whole bill with a little bit of maturity, if we can. It is emotional for some people, so I think we would respect that.
The Hon. D.W. RIDGWAY: I would like just to quickly put a couple of things. The Hon. Mark Parnell addressed some of the comments I made, and again I said he should go out and have a look at farming. He made the comment around contamination and how it is impossible to manage. All we are actually talking about is having a high-level review and having a look, but in relation to contamination, if you go to the South Australian-Victorian border from where I lived, Bordertown to Mount Gambier, in most cases the border is an old netting fence not much higher than about your waste.
There are not many cattle there, so it keeps sheep in. There is meant to be a three-chain road on every border because that is what you have, a road so that you can traverse your state without having to go into foreign territory in Victoria, but most farmers actually crop that road, knowing that if somebody wants to drive through or drove some sheep through, your crop is going to be flattened. In actual fact, we have crops much closer than the Hon. Kyam Maher and I are apart. In Victoria, they can grow a GM crop and the grower on this side of the fence cannot grow it. It is no different to what would happen if you grew it inside a state.
I am amazed at the lack of understanding. People think South Australia is surrounded by desert, from the Nullarbor Plain, all the way around until you get to the Murray River, where it starts to get a bit more arable. From about Pinnaroo, you go through the big desert and then you come down from where I used to live to Mount Gambier, Nelson and the Glenelg River, where it is highly productive land. I introduced the opium poppy bill because people just over there could grow opium poppies and on this side of the border we could not.
I ask the Hon. Mark Parnell to consider: how do farmers in the South-East, if there is a benefit in a rotation sense to be able to have that opportunity to spray out some weeds, grow a crop over the next four or five years and get a better yield? The bloke over there can do it, but here I cannot. You have to actually understand the statements you make around contamination. If it was a real problem, we would have 10 years of contamination in South Australia over the South Australian/Victorian border. There are farmers I know who grow two crops—GM canola on one side of the border and non-GM on the other—and manage it without any problems. I think you have to have an understanding of how that particular part of the rotation works.
What we have been asking for is a high-level review. I made that very clear and I think it is very disappointing that people do not want to have that. I am astounded, and I am certainly going to be communicating to the agricultural sector—the grains sector—the decisions that this chamber has made tonight. They are the ones who actually have an opportunity to have the moratorium that affects their lives reviewed to measure exactly the benefit that the minister claims he will get. I will be asking questions of the Hon. Tung Ngo when he moves his amendment.
With those comments, I want to make it clear that this is a particularly important issue. If there are benefits, why are we going to lock our farmers out of those benefits? I do not know. As I keep saying, I am not a scientist. The Hon. Ian Hunter is the only one in this chamber with a science degree.
The Hon. Mark Parnell and the Hon. John Darley say somebody can bring a motion back to the parliament. I do not know whether Nick Xenophon is still honourable or not, but he could be back in this place. He probably is still honourable. He is allowed to keep that title. The Hon. Nick Xenophon and his team may get four or five members elected to this chamber and have the balance of power.
We have no idea of the make-up of this chamber. The Hon. Tammy Franks might not get elected this time. Who knows? The Hon. Robert Brokenshire might not get elected. At the end of the day, I am amazed that the Hon. Mark Parnell thinks that a parliament of an unknown capability and expertise would be a better place than a high-level review that actually has experts—scientists—to make this judgement.
The Hon. T.T. NGO: I move:
Amendment No 1 [Ngo–1]—
Page 2, line 9 [Clause 2(2)]—Delete '2025' and substitute '2028'
I am moving this amendment on behalf of the government to extend the expiry of the regulations to 1 September 2028, rather than September 2025, as a 10-year extension of South Australia's non-GM position would provide greater certainty for investment in the sector and enable continued work with industry to capitalise on its benefits and gather evidence of its impacts. Ten years is the usual period for regulations to be in place before a review, and this extended time frame is considered to be more in line with market needs.
The Hon. D.W. RIDGWAY: I would like to know from the mover of the motion what consultation the government has had with the industry stakeholders. I notice from the government's report that you were going to invite businesses to be interviewed as part of this, to liaise with Food SA and, depending on sufficient industry support, provide a briefing to relevant government ministers on the findings and implications of government policies. What consultation have you had with Grain Producers SA, Primary Producers SA and Food SA?
The Hon. T.T. NGO: I cannot respond to that question, because I am moving this on behalf of the minister, who is in another place. The minister is obviously not here tonight, and his adviser is not here. I am happy to provide that question tomorrow or in the following sitting week, if that is the case. My advice is, as I said earlier, that the 10 years provides certainty and gives the sector the opportunity for further investment. I also spoke about how the canola industry is important to the South Australian food and wine industry. That is the reason I am moving for the 10-year extension.
The Hon. D.W. RIDGWAY: It says in the recommendations of the government's report that they provide a briefing to relevant government ministers. Which ministers have been briefed?
The Hon. T.T. NGO: I will have to bring back that response, because, as I said, I am moving this on behalf of the minister. I am happy to provide that answer on the next sitting day.
The Hon. D.W. RIDGWAY: In that case, if he is happy to provide an answer, I move:
That progress be reported.
The council divided on the motion:
Dawkins, J.S.L. Lensink, J.M.A. Lucas, R.I.
Ridgway, D.W. (teller) Stephens, T.J. Wade, S.G.
Brokenshire, R.L. Darley, J.A. Franks, T.A.
Gazzola, J.M. Hanson, J.E. Hood, D.G.E.
Maher, K.J. Malinauskas, P. Ngo, T.T.
Parnell, M.C. (teller) Vincent, K.L.
Lee, J.S. Gago, G.E. McLachlan, A.L.
The Hon. D.W. RIDGWAY: I just want to put on the record that I am surprised that the Australian Conservatives did not see the opportunity to support an adjournment so that we could actually find out if the government had consulted. The Hon. John Darley, I am surprised that you would not support an adjournment to see if the government had actually spoken to the industry, to see whether they had actually honoured the recommendations of the report that Hon. Mark Parnell refers to.
This was not voting against it, it was just adjourning it so that the Hon. Tung Ngo could come back with information that he offered to bring back to the chamber. I am very surprised and I think a lot of South Australians will be equally surprised that you have not taken this opportunity to adjourn this until the next Wednesday of sitting when, if it passed, there would still be ample opportunity in the last sitting day, or the optional week, for the government to jam it through in the House of Assembly. It was not as though it was going to be dead. I am very surprised that that decision has been made.
The Hon. R.L. BROKENSHIRE: The Australian Conservatives have made their position very clear, but there are protocols and procedures in this place. I am not going to apologise for the ineptness of the government. We know the government's position: for short term political gain they are prepared to cause potential serious income losses to agriculture in South Australia without the science. I do not think they have any science. This goes back to Rory McEwen when he was the minister and did a deal with the Labor Party back in the Hon. Mike Rann government era.
The point is that it is not a government bill. This is private members' time. The Hon. Mark Parnell has put something up and we oppose it—we have made that clear—but to report progress and delay it further we do not support. I am very happy to go on Country Hour tomorrow and put the reason why we wanted to get on with it. We do not agree with it; we are opposed to it—let's tell the public of South Australia. The fact is, the government do not have any science whatsoever.
The Hon. Leon Bignell's best attribute is that he plays bluff. He bluffs his way through and he is not challenged. The fact is, this government has no scientific evidence. It is a policy decision of this government based more on marginal seats in Adelaide—that is what it is. If it was a government bill we would have supported the Liberal Party, but in private members' time we cannot support reporting progress because there is a challenge to the government on a private member's bill from the Hon. Mark Parnell. That is the reason for that.
Our position is clear: we do not support the Hon. Mark Parnell's bill. We know where the government are and we look forward to a time when we can have, with cool, clear, calm heads, a proper scientific debate that we will support. If the opposition become government, we will support, as the number one priority, in April next year, or whenever the government, if it is a Liberal government, want to do it, a full, detailed and urgent inquiry into this and we are not going to allow it to procrastinate and go forward. There are procedures here that we have to stick to as principles. This is not a government bill, it is a private member's bill.
Amendment negatived; clause passed.
Bill reported without amendment.
The Hon. M.C. PARNELL (22:16): I move:
That this bill be now read a third time.
The PRESIDENT: Seconded. All those in favour. Against. I declare it carried.
The Hon. D.W. Ridgway: What about the noes?
The PRESIDENT: I said, 'All those in favour. Against. I declare it carried.'
The Hon. T.A. Franks: You didn't say no; what about the noes?
The PRESIDENT: That is quite an extraordinary position to put to the President.
The PRESIDENT: Do you want to read it a third time now?
The Hon. R.L. BROKENSHIRE: As a matter of procedure, sir, I understand that any member has the right to divide on the third reading. I thought I heard a division called and I second that division.
The PRESIDENT: I honestly did not hear any division.
The PRESIDENT: No, I am not going to put it again. I am not going to jump at shadows every time I make a decision.
Bill read a third time.
The PRESIDENT: I now put the question that this bill now do pass.
The council divided on the question:
Darley, J.A. Franks, T.A. Gazzola, J.M.
Hanson, J.E. Maher, K.J. Malinauskas, P.
Ngo, T.T. Parnell, M.C. (teller) Vincent, K.L.
Brokenshire, R.L. Dawkins, J.S.L. Hood, D.G.E.
Lensink, J.M.A. Lucas, R.I. Ridgway, D.W. (teller)
Stephens, T.J. Wade, S.G.
Gago, G.E. Lee, J.S. Hunter, I.K.
Question thus carried; bill passed.
On the 28th November 2017, the bill was debated in the House of Assembly.
The following is the Hansard transcript of the debate.
Genetically Modified Crops Management Regulations (Postponement of Expiry) Bill
The Hon. L.W.K. BIGNELL (Mawson—Minister for Agriculture, Food and Fisheries, Minister for Forests, Minister for Tourism, Minister for Recreation and Sport, Minister for Racing) (12:26): I move:
That this bill be now read a second time.
I seek leave to insert the second reading explanation in Hansard without my reading it.
South Australia is one of the few jurisdictions in the world to be phylloxera free, fruit fly free and have a moratorium on growing genetically-modified (GM) food crops.
These credentials give the State's primary producers and food and beverage manufacturers a competitive marketing advantage in the global marketplace.
South Australia is the only remaining mainland state in Australia to prohibit the commercial cultivation of GM food crops.
Our non-GM status is one of the elements underpinning our global reputation as a supplier of premium products, and supporting the Government's Premium Food and Wine Produced in our Clean Environment and Exported to the World economic priority.
Through the Genetically Modified Crops Management Act 2004 and Regulations, a moratorium on the commercial cultivation of genetically-modified food crops is in place until 1 September 2019.
On 18 October 2017, my colleague in the other place, Greens State Parliamentary Leader, introduced a Bill which would extend these Regulations until 2025.
He has stated the intent of the Bill is to ensure there is parliamentary debate before the Regulations expire in 2019.
I congratulate the Member in the other place for bringing this matter to the attention of the Parliament for early consideration before this expiry occurs.
The Bill aligns with Government policy and brings forward consideration of whether the current legislation should be retained, extended or removed prior to 1 September 2019.
Extending the prohibition on growing GM food crops would provide greater certainty to our trading partners and industry, enable South Australia to maintain its market position as a producer of premium, non-GM food, and respond to the expected increase in global demand.
Costs and benefits
When it comes to the GM prohibition in South Australia, canola is really the only GM food we are talking about.
But the benefits—now and into the future—of being able to market South Australia as non-GM, fruit fly free and phylloxera free apply across our whole state and to all our agribusiness industries.
There is a clear premium for non-GM canola over GM canola.
Domestically, a review of prices for commodity non-GM and GM canola in March 2016 found price premiums of between 10% and 17% ($45 to $69 a tonne) for non-GM canola at Victorian, New South Wales and Western Australian grain receival sites.
There will be seasonal variation but the premium remains, with the latest information for the upcoming season putting the premium at between $20 and $35 a tonne.
On 22 November 2017, the price difference between non-GM and GM canola in Victoria was $40 per tonne.
South Australian non-GM canola gains an equivalent price. It is also effectively worth more to the producer as there are no costs for separating GM and non-GM grain through the supply chain and they are not paying the higher GM seed costs or GM variety royalties.
The benefits of South Australia's non-GM status extend beyond a single crop and are available to the whole agricultural, food and beverage sector, which generated a record $19.97 billion in revenue in 2016-17.
Report by the University of Adelaide
A 2016 report by the University of Adelaide investigated global trends for packaged, non-GM, natural and organic food and beverages.
The report, commissioned by the State Government, indicates the global market for non-GMO labelled foods and beverages will reach $US 949 billion by 2018 from a base of $US 521 billion in 2014, creating export market opportunities for South Australia.
Findings indicate the United States is a complex market but one where there is strong demand growth for non-GM labelled food. China is also identified as a market willing to pay a price premium for foods they trust. These are our largest and fastest growing markets for SA food and wine.
While not intended to address the South Australian legislative framework prohibiting commercial cultivation of GM food crops, the report does identify the State's GM moratorium as one of several current assets available to capitalise on non-GM food export market opportunities.
Since the report's release:
A communications and engagement strategy has been developed
Four key market strategies (UK, US, Japan, China) are being developed based on the work of the report
French and EU non GM policy and opportunities have been investigated during the Great Wine Capitals meeting
Round 3 of the Credentials Program has completed, which targeted non-GM certification for businesses. Grant recipients were:
AJ and VJ McTaggart's, Bultarra Australian Certified Organic Saltbush Lamb and Yeltacowie Pastoral's application to become Non-GMO certified; and
Tucker's Natural's application to support non-GM and safe quality food certification.
The pilot non-GM food sector Statement of Recognition Program has recently been offered to the South Australian food and beverage sector with three successful recipients, including Tucker's Natural, Greenwheat Freekeh and Kangaroo Island Pure Grain.
I have approached US supermarket chain Wholefoods to explore how South Australia could capitalise on Wholefoods' GM-free commitment.
PIRSA is also investigating opportunities to work with interested businesses to further capitalise on and market South Australia's nonGM status.
South Australia's non-GM status has been, and continues to be, promoted in a food and wine industry toolkit video which is on the PIRSA website and is shown on inbound and outbound trade missions including the most recent trade mission to North East Asia (Japan, South Korea and Taiwan).
PIRSA continues work to further capitalise on SA's non-GM status, including:
Analysing domestic and export market legislative requirements and certification processes
Assessing the full advantages of not having to segregate crops
Assessing the current impacts of SA's moratorium on the cultivation of GM food crops on primary producers and the field crops supply chain, and
Consultation and participation in the Commonwealth's review of gene technology regulation.
I know industry opinions are mixed on this—and I received the industry petition from Grain Producers SA in August 2016 with 221 signatories (out of a total 5,800 grain growers) calling for the moratorium to be lifted but I am approached by farmers all around the state, including grain growers, who tell me they support the moratorium.
A number of South Australian businesses are using their non-GM status and the state's GM food crop prohibition to access new markets and grow sales.
Our non-GM status was critical in developing export markets for Kangaroo Island Pure Grain, attracting international investment and acting as a strong drawcard for Japan based Hirata Industries who have come to South Australia to import non-GM canola from Kangaroo Island.
The University of Adelaide report highlights a number of other South Australian food exporters promoting their non-GM status including: Tuckers Natural, San Remo, Fleurieu Milk and Yoghurt Co and B-D Farms Paris Creek.
Sam Densley from QualityWise Oats has told me he gets a premium price from access non-GM markets for his specially labelled oat products.
I have spoken with Mark Harvey—Chairman, S&W Seed Company, who publicly supports our policy on behalf of his industry because it brings them many benefits and market access.
The State Government is committed to realising the market opportunities for our agribusiness industries by maintaining the moratorium through an ongoing legislative prohibition.
Mr PEDERICK (Hammond) (12:27): I rise as the lead speaker in regard to the Genetically Modified Crops Management Regulations (Postponement of Expiry) Bill 2017. I note that the Liberal Party oppose the bill and I will explain why. The bill is for an act to postpone the expiry of the Genetically Modified Crops Management Regulations 2008. The bill seeks to further postpone the Genetically Modified Crops Management Regulations 2008 until 1 December 2025. I also note that the government have filed amendments to extend that moratorium until—
The Hon. L.W.K. Bignell: No, we are not doing that.
Mr PEDERICK: You are not doing that. It has been indicated that the government is not filing amendments to extend that moratorium until 2028, which would have resulted in a 20-year moratorium on genetically-modified crops in South Australia from when it was first introduced. Under the Genetically Modified Crops Management Act 2004, no genetically-modified food crops can be cultivated in South Australia.
Before proceeding further with the debate, I would like to indicate that the state opposition has supported the current genetically-modified crops moratorium in South Australia. However, if elected in March 2018, we will commission and finalise an independent review within six months on the subject of genetically-modified crops. That review is about getting an expert panel in place to look at the science and economics of whether there is a premium for staying genetically modified free in this state.
The opposition do not think that it is acceptable for a government to impose a moratorium totalling 17 years with zero consultation with the industry. We believe that there needs to be expert advice provided to investigate and highlight the facts, which is why a high-level review has our full commitment. Australia has been cultivating genetically-modified cotton since 1996. CropLife Australia has noted that today 96 per cent of cotton grown is genetically modified, and its production has cut pesticide use down by up to 85 per cent in comparison to conventional cotton varieties. Some of these are herbicides. In the main, these sprays are insect sprays, or insecticides, which are the most dangerous to use on farms. That figure of 85 per cent in reduced insecticide use in GM cotton production is a significant figure to acknowledge.
The manipulation of the genetic make-up of animals and plants has been happening for countless generations. Those techniques are often referred to as traditional crossbreeding, such as selecting plants and animals with the most desirable characteristics for breeding the next generation. We see this principle being considered for many creations of life, whether it be for animals or plants. We have seen it in the cattle industry and the sheep industry, just to name a couple, where people breed rams for size, for the wool growth they want, for the wool traits they want or so they can breed the stock they want. In regard to cattle, they do so to get that growth in the hindquarters, etc.
Driving deeper into the theory of generations of selective breeding can be heavily related to the breeding of companion animals, such as dogs. Genetically-modified foods are derived from genetically-modified organisms. All approved GM foods come from GM plants, such as corn plants with a gene that makes them resistant to insect attack, or soybeans with a modified fatty-acid content that makes the oil better suited to frying. Recent developments have seen the approval of a canola line that has been genetically modified to produce considerably high levels of omega 3, a long-chain fatty acid, docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). Other publications have stated that if you can achieve 12 per cent levels of DHA in canola oil, then one hectare of this crop can meet the same production levels produced by 10,000 ocean fish.
Some may not be aware, however, that insulin for diabetics is also derived from genetically-modified bacteria. Conventional methods of obtaining insulin is taken from the pancreas of a pig or a cow. However, modern practice now enables the development of insulin synthetically. There are advantages to creating insulin synthetically, including that it is easier to create high quantities, that it is less likely to result in an adverse reaction and that 'it overcomes ethical concerns from vegetarians and others'. Obviously, insulin is necessary for diabetics in the control of sugars.
Food Standards Australia New Zealand is also currently assessing genetically-modified rice, which would contain high levels of vitamin A, which again would result in health benefits for recipients. Genetic modification is also present in corn products, such as corn oil, cornflour or corn syrup used in snack foods, fried foods and confectionery. It is also used for cattle feed. Interestingly, I have located a list of percentages from the top seven genetically-modified crops grown in the United States, as follows:
corn: corn is the number one crop grown in the US, and nearly all of it (88 per cent) is genetically modified;
soy: 93 per cent of soy is genetically modified. Soy is a staple of processed foods under various names, including hydrogenated oils, lecithin, emulsifiers, tocopherol (a vitamin E supplement) and proteins;
cottonseed: according to the United States Department of Agriculture, 94 per cent of cotton grown in the United States is genetically modified. Cottonseeds are culled from cotton and then used for vegetable oil, margarine or shortening production, or frying foods, such as potato chips;
alfalfa or lucerne: farmers feed alfalfa to dairy cows, which are the source of milk, butter, yoghurt, meat and so much more. Alfalfa is the fourth largest crop grown in the United States behind corn, soybeans and wheat. There is no genetically-engineered wheat on the market;
papaya: 75 per cent of the Hawaiian papaya crop is genetically modified to withstand the papaya ringspot virus;
canola: about 90 per cent of the United States' canola crop is genetically modified. Canola oil is used in cooking, as well as biofuels;
and sugar beets: more than half (54 per cent) of sugar sold in America comes from sugar beets. Genetically-modified sugar beets account for 90 per cent of the crop. However. that percentage is expected to increase after the United States Department of Agriculture's decision last year gave the green light to sugar beet planting before an environmental impact statement was completed.
These percentages indicate the high uptake of GM crops within the United States. Certainly, locally, we have the investigative labs, including the Plant Accelerator at the Waite Research Institute, which is in the Adelaide Integrated Bioscience Laboratories. The Plant Accelerator is a cutting-edge plant phenotyping facility located at the University of Adelaide's Waite campus.
As a node of the Australian Plant Phenomics Facility, the Plant Accelerator offers modern plant growth environments and state-of-the-art, high throughput automated imaging and computing technologies to monitor the performance of plants under different environmental conditions—for example, which genotype performs best under drought stress. The facility offers professional consultation on plant phenomics and experimental design, backed by dedicated bioinformatic support with data management and analysis.
The AIB lab is also fitted with four fully-automated greenhouses (smart houses) tailored with conveyor systems and programmable watering stations with 34 modern high-quality greenhouses, including quarantine and genetic modification approved facilities. I understand that one side of the Plant Accelerator system is dedicated to genetic modification.
I also note that in around 2006 ministerial exemptions have been given for a limited controlled release of GM herbicide tolerant hybrid crops; this includes canola and mustard. The proposed sites in South Australia included Kingston, Mount Gambier, Naracoorte, Lucindale, Grant, Robe, Tatiara, Wattle Range and Lacepede. I understand that there has been seed grown out in the Mount Gambier district, under licence.
As stated previously, genetically-modified cotton has been grown commercially since 1996. GM cotton has been modified so that it is insect resistant, herbicide tolerant, or both. Residues of agricultural and veterinary chemicals can legally only be present on food if they are compliant with maximum residue limits (MRLs). MRLs provide the specifications of how much residue is allowed to remain on a harvested crop after the chemical has been sprayed and ensures that residue levels are kept as low as possible.
Cottonseed oil also has many uses and is heavily produced. In 2017, 134,000 metric tonnes of cottonseed oil was produced with a growth rate of 14.53 per cent. The following statement is an extract from a publication I have come across, entitled Uses of Cottonseed Oil:
This vegetable oil is frequently used for frying, deep-frying, and baking. Because of its neutral taste, cottonseed oil is said to enhance the natural taste of food, unlike other oils.
Cottonseed oil is a familiar feature of processed foods, which I absolutely recommend you avoid if you want to achieve true health. It's a popular ingredient in margarines, icings, and whipped toppings, because it helps form beta prime crystal, which promotes the ideal texture and creamy appearance of shortenings, spreads, and similar products. Cottonseed oil is also added to salads.
Other processed foods that use cottonseed oil as an ingredient include potato chips and French fries, baked goods, cereals, mayonnaise, [stir-fries] and oriental dishes, and spicy foods.
Certainly in restaurants and fast-food shops across South Australia, cottonseed oil is used to fry chips—
Mr Treloar interjecting:
Mr PEDERICK: —yes, absolutely—and 93 per cent of the cotton grown is genetically modified. The article continues:
Cottonseed oil is also used in personal care products such as soap and cosmetics. Soap produced with cottonseed oil was found to be adapted to washing wool. The oil from cottonseed is also added to laundry detergents. Other products where cottonseed oil is used range from rubber to insecticides and explosives.
Canola is also an approved genetically-modified, herbicide-tolerant crop and was approved for commercial production in 2003 on a worldwide basis. Canola oil is used on many dairy-type spreads and blends. Along with Australian-grown genetically-modified products, there are also imported GM foods. Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) allows manufacturers to utilise a range of GM food ingredients imported internationally. Such products can include GM varieties of soy beans, corn, rice, potatoes and sugar beet, and these products will be all over your supermarket shelves.
GM technologies are constantly developing, and other states are well advancing in that respect. For instance, if a farmer has a crop growing really well and then experiences a frost, they would lose an entire crop of barley, wheat or canola. However, there is potential to develop frost-tolerant, drought-tolerant and salinity-tolerant crops. I have also been advised that a lot of work is being done on potatoes and grapes becoming disease resistant and, even further, there is research being done on allergen-free nuts.
There are many other genetically-modified options advancing, and I am sure these will continue to develop well into the future. Other benefits of GM crops around the world have also included lowered farm level production costs and higher crop yields, increased farm profits, improvements in soil health, and reduced CO2emissions from cropping. On a state-by-state basis, Western Australia is experiencing the biggest uptake of GM technology in Australia. When the 2010 permission was given for commercial planting of GM canola, 317 growers planted around 72,200 hectares. Since then, the proportion of commercial genetically-modified canola grown has been steadily increasing.
In 2015, Monsanto reported that Victorian farmers purchased 108 tonnes of the company's Roundup Ready Canola seed, up 15 per cent on the previous year. That level of planting accounts for about 13 per cent of Victoria's overall canola crop. Overall, states able to access GM technology have been able to adapt more efficiently to extreme climactic conditions, and require less pesticides, water and fertiliser than conventional crops. There is also GM technology which could address vitamin deficiency of the world's malnourished.
Whilst I have acknowledged some of the benefits genetic modification presents, safety requires paramount consideration also. Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) established a rigorous and transparent process for assessing the safety of GM foods. FSANZ undertakes a thorough safety assessment of all GM foods prior to them being allowed in the food supply. This safety assessment is distinguished through case-by-case consideration of GM foods, consideration of both the intended and unintended effects of the genetic modification, and a comparison with conventional foods having an acceptable standard of safety. The following statement is an extract from the FSANZ website:
Many of the food safety issues raised by GM foods are equally applicable to foods produced by conventional means. GM foods are however subjected to a safety assessment before they are permitted in the food supply. The safety assessment includes extensive analyses of the composition of the food, a full consideration of the safety of any new substances that have been introduced into the food…as well as a thorough characterisation of the genetic changes that have been introduced into the organism from which the food is derived. This ensures that any GM food that is approved is as safe as food already in the food supply, including in the long term.
To date, gene technology has not been shown to introduce any new or altered hazards into the food supply, therefore the potential for long term risks associated with GM foods is considered to be no different to that for conventional foods already in the food supply.
As well as the safety assessments previously described, the Office of the Gene Technology Regulator (OGTR) is the federal government body responsible for the national scheme to regulate genetically-modified organisms (GMOs) in Australia. Under the Gene Technology Act 2000, the OGTR administers some of the toughest legislation regarding GMOs in the world. Breaches can result in potential fines of more than $1 million per day.
Given that we are debating genetic modification, I must also refer to the comments made by the Minister for Agriculture. The minister claims that, by South Australia remaining GM free, all South Australian exports receive a premium in overseas markets, though to date the minister has provided no data or advice to quantify or substantiate his claims that all South Australian exports receive a premium as a result of South Australia's genetically-modified free status. The minister even commissioned a report by the University of Adelaide to investigate his assertions. Ultimately, the report does not address the claims that all exports receive a premium as a result of this state being GM free.
Furthermore, I would like to reflect on a contribution made by the Hon. Robert Brokenshire in the other place. The honourable member indicated that agricultural commodity prices between South Australia and other states do not show any evidence—any evidence—of a premium price for this state being GM free. The honourable member in the other place continued his remarks in this regard, stating that he was required to sign a sustainable canola declaration to prove that South Australia has the cleanest, greenest and most sustainable canola in the world, yet there are no additional premiums for this status.
The opposition's policy of having a high-level expert investigation would consider all matters relating to genetically-modified canola, including the statements made by the minister in relation to this so-called added premium. During estimates this year, we questioned the minister about a GM breakout. I note from the comments made in the answer by Will Zacharin from the department that on 22 May 2017 Biosecurity SA became aware of a report from a Mid North farmer of a number of self-sown or volunteer canola plants that had survived a spray of glyphosate while others in the paddock had died.
It went through the investigative process, and these plants were determined to be genetically modified. Obviously, there had been an issue with the seed, and some genetically-modified seed had come in. From what I understand, it was not just one round of Roundup. A grower tried to kill these plants. He went over several times. Obviously, they were Roundup-resistant. The issue is that this was not over a small area: this was over 500 acres, or 200 hectares, a significant portion of land that now has had genetically-modified canola on it.
The Productivity Commission's draft report of July this year into the regulation of Australian agriculture unequivocally states that there are no economic, health or safety justifications for banning the cultivation of genetically-modified GM organisms. Draft recommendation 6.1 stated that all state and territory governments should also repeal the legislation that imposes or gives them powers to impose moratoria on the cultivation of genetically-modified organisms by 2018. It went on to say that some regulations lack a sound policy justification and should be removed, including state bans on cultivated genetically-modified crops and that there is little evidence of GMO-free marketing benefits at bulk trade level.
In my experience as a farmer before entering this place, and having an issue with wild radish on my property, I had no choice but to use a lot of chemicals on my canola crops and I had to use triazine-tolerant (TT) varieties. You take a bit of a yield hit using triazine-tolerant varieties because they have to have that built-in triazine tolerance. You go out with a fair lick of simazine and then follow up with atrazine later on, early in the crop growth. It does work and it is very effective.
I am going from memory now, but the recommendations were about 3½ litres of triazine per hectare. I think it was two litres first-up and probably six or so weeks later 1½ litres of atrazine. Because the regulators were concerned with the build-up of triazine in the soils, they reduced the label rates. I can tell you from experience that they are not effective. I understand why the label rates were reduced, but if it does not work it is not much chop going with a lower rate.
That is an issue because there is a lot of country in South Australia, as there is in Western Australia and through other states in this country. I am certainly well aware of how much wild radish there is in WA, but it would be right through Victoria, New South Wales and probably into Queensland. It is—I was going to swear but I will not because I am here—a darn weed; it is a beggar of a thing. It just keeps regrowing. There is hard seed in the ground and you have to use triazine-tolerant canola seed to grow a clean and profitable crop.
What has happened with the Western Australian experience—where they have been able to use Roundup-Ready canola for quite a while now—is they can go in with Roundup, which is a lot safer than triazines and a cheaper option. Certainly it is another option, another tool, in the kitbag for Western Australian farmers in their farming program.
Canola is not grown year in, year out. It could be a three-year rotation, a four-year rotation or a five-year rotation—so, every three, four or five years. Several years ago there was a drought in Western Australia and some of the only profitable crops on some farms were the genetically-modified canola. They sowed it with very little rain because they knew that they could take all the weeds out with Roundup once everything germinated and, in fact, a lot of it went in dry, as a management tool. Because people have so many acres or hectares to put in they need to get on with the job and in a lot of cases that was the only crop that made them any money at all.
As I said, with trials and the Plant Accelerator experience, whether it be in the genetically-modified zone or the normal crop-breeding zone, to get salinity and drought tolerance into any grains or canola would be a huge win—a huge win if it can be pulled off—for the agriculture industry.
Salinity and drought, certainly in Western Australia, are two of the biggest issues, but they are also issues here. We always have droughts around the place. I note that in Canada there has been some talk about premiums. Japan will not take canola unless it is non-genetically modified. Canada pretty well sells all their canola commingled and they sell a lot of it to Japan.
I have talked about the Productivity Commission report. In regard to the ban in South Australia and what it does as far as getting seed from the Eastern States through to Western Australia or whether it is grown under licence in Mount Gambier, I know that Webb transport in MacKillop and Tintinara cart a lot of this seed. They have to go right around South Australia and up through the Northern Territory to get this seed to Western Australia, which I find absolutely ridiculous. Getting this seed there puts a huge cost on the other end, for the Western Australian farmers.
I have opened plenty of canola seed bags. They are probably triple-strength material and stitched right up. They would be packed in plastic, tied up and put inside container trucks. Unless you had a devastating crash, nothing would happen. It just seems amazing that, because of the ban in this state, this seed has to go right around the state as if it is some big bogeyman out there in the field.
I am certainly keen to hear what the minister has to say about the recommended next steps in regard to the University of Adelaide's Centre for Global Food and Resources' Final Summary Report. Three of the recommendations include:
1. Invite South Australian businesses interviewed as part of the study to a presentation and discussion of the findings.
2. Liaise with Food SA to include the highlights of the findings in the industry workshops it will be conducting as part of developing their 'Growth through Innovation Strategy'.
3. Depending on sufficient industry support, provide a briefing to relevant Government Ministers and Executive staff on the findings and implications for Government programs.
I would certainly be interested to know whether any of these recommendations have been implemented and what the government's original thoughts were about extending this moratorium until 2028 because clearly we do not actually have a government policy that is unreviewed and not looked at for more than two decades. I am interested in the minister's response to that.
As I indicated, we oppose the bill. I have indicated what we will do if we come into government. I am a farmer and have declared that. I look at the tools that can be used elsewhere. I look at the uses of genetically-modified foods not just in the first but where they are used for add-ons to processed food, such as cottonseed oil which is used in many deep fryers across the state.
Certainly, there would be a huge array of foods with genetically-modified ingredients that people would buy every week off our store shelves in South Australia and they would have no idea that they were genetically modified. Obviously, they do not have any health effects. Looking at some of the health reports I commented on earlier in this contribution, I know that there are no reasons to have this moratorium. It just seems that emotion gets in the way of reality. On this side of the house, we would like to see science and economics come to the fore so that we can see the true reality. With those remarks, we oppose the bill.
The Hon. P. CAICA (Colton) (12:59): I will be very quick in seeking leave to continue my remarks. If that contribution was meant to have us reconsider lifting the moratorium on genetically-modified crops in South Australia, it did not work. It is more a reason for us to do exactly what we are doing by this bill. I seek leave to continue my remarks.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
Adjourned debate on second reading (resumed on motion).
The DEPUTY SPEAKER: Member for Colton, you are continuing your remarks.
The Hon. P. CAICA (Colton) (16:46): I am, and I almost forget where I was at, but I do remember.
The DEPUTY SPEAKER: Shall we call for Hansard?
The Hon. P. CAICA: No. They will correct the record if I am wrong because they are magnificent, but I think where I was at was suggesting that, if there was any reason to support this particular bill, it was a contribution made by the member for Hammond. I will explain that in more detail as we go along. I would also note that you were very lucky today, member for Hammond, because this was a private member's bill and, of course, you should have been restricted entirely to private members' business. There is no extended period. I think that the officers at the front there were very generous to you, and I guess we were as well because we should have shut you down.
Mr Pederick: Go for it.
The Hon. P. CAICA: He is an angry man. Getting back to this bill, the national regulatory scheme for gene technology allows states to regulate genetically-modified (GM) crops where there are risks to markets and trade, as the national scheme deals only with risks to human health and environment. Deputy Speaker, you would be aware that in South Australia the cultivation of GM food crops is prohibited by regulations made under the Genetically Modified Crops Management Act 2004. These very good regulations are due to expire, under the Subordinate Legislation Act 1978, on 1 September 2019.
The bill, introduced by my colleague in the other place, brings forward consideration of whether the current prohibition on growing GM food crops in South Australia should be retained, extended or removed before this time. What this bill effectively does is extend the state's non-GM status until 2025, something that I certainly support. I know that the minister and the government side support this because this makes South Australia the only mainland state in Australia to prohibit the commercial cultivation of GM crops. It is certainly my view, and that of people on this side of the house, that this non-GM status provides our state with a market advantage and is one of the elements that underpin our global reputation as a supplier of premium food and wine from our clean environment.
We heard the member for Hammond, in his very long contribution, talk about why we should be doing it. Essentially, what he was saying, if I got the thrust of it right, was that we should become the same as everyone else, that just because the rest of the world and the rest of the states are doing it we should do exactly the same as they are doing in other states and across Australia. I am bad at analogies, and you know that, but I am going to try one anyway. I often hear people say, 'They do this in Sydney. Why don't we do this?' 'They do this in Melbourne. Why don't we do this?' Well, we are Adelaide and we distinguish ourselves from Melbourne and Sydney—and that is what makes Adelaide and South Australia such a fantastic place to live.
The point I am making, I hope in a not too long-winded way, is: why should we follow the suit of other states and the rest of the world when it comes to genetically-modified food? We should distinguish ourselves from those states and those nations because we know that around the world there are more discerning marketplaces, those that are more interested in where the food they are going to eat comes from—paddock to plate, all those types of things—and also the nature of the product itself.
I believe that it is a great advantage to South Australia. It is probably arguable as to whether we are able to effectively measure it now as much as we would like, but certainly I do not believe it is worth the risk of lifting this moratorium because I believe that, in the medium to long term, and I hope the shorter term, the discerning markets around the world, of which I speak, will come to realise that South Australia is a place where you can source clean, green, GM free, non-GM food from our clean and healthy environment. It distinguishes us. That is what we have to do.
Whilst the member for Hammond talked about various areas of primary production, the reality is that what will happen over a period of time is that all aspects of our primary production will be regarded as coming from South Australia, renowned and regarded as a place to source your foodstuff. Extending the food crops moratorium would provide assurance of our food export status to our trading partners and certainly to industry to facilitate planning and investment in non-GM market development beyond 2019. That is why this government supports the bill, as it aligns with government policy and demonstrates the government's commitment to the state market position in the long term. It would also ensure that South Australia is able to maximise current and future shifts in consumer sentiment and respond to the expected increase in global market demand for non-GM food products.
As the member for Hammond mouthed off all those things on the shelves in various shops that come from areas that are genetically-modified produce, just is the case around the world in those discerning markets—people are going to see South Australian products that come from a non-genetically modified primary industry environment. It would allow South Australia to protect and promote its market position as a producer of premium non-GM food and beverages.
I look forward, Deputy Speaker, as I know you do—you will probably be much closer to looking forward to it because you will be here after the next election and I will not—to seeing the state government continue working with our food and beverage industry to capitalise on our non-GM position. I believe that it is a position that we can capitalise on for South Australia, for the benefit of our economy, and also by ensuring that those discerning marketplaces around the world are actively seeking out our products from South Australia.
Opposition from some primary producers seeking access to GM canola as part of their crop rotation needs to be considered in the context of the benefits to the broader food and beverage industry, which generated a record $19.97 billion in revenue in 2016-17. In considering the statewide impact of the GM moratorium, we need to consider the direct and indirect implications that introducing GM food crops would have on the state's entire food production.
The member for Hammond talked about the fact that those trucks travelling to Western Australia with GM seed have to go through Alice Springs. I say that it is good that that happens. It is good for them and good that it happens, because I know that we would only need one major disaster and those plastic bags, or whatever they are wrapped in, would split and all of a sudden our reputation would be diminished. I say that our reputation is being enhanced by making sure that those seeds travel the route that they do.
We need to consider all aspects, as I have said, the direct and indirect implications of introducing GM food crops on the state's entire food production system. I say: let's not be the same as every other state in Australia. Let's not be the same as the majority of states or nations around the world. Let's be different. Let's distinguish ourselves and let's ensure that this state continues to be a state that can be proud of—and the rest of the world can source—our fantastic produce that is grown in a clean and green environment and is GM free. It is important that we keep this in mind when we consider South Australia's premium clean brand and marketing position as a whole. I congratulate my colleague from another place on the introduction of this bill. I am proud to stand here and say that I support this bill.
Mr TRELOAR (Flinders) (16:54): I rise to speak to this bill, the genetically-modified crops extension of moratorium bill, which was introduced by Mark Parnell in the other place. Certainly it seems that, given the support of the government, this bill will actually go through. I think it is unfortunate that that is happening. I am going to declare an interest here. For more than 30 years, I was a grain grower and I still have an interest in a property on Eyre Peninsula. As most people know, I do not have an active role in the day-to-day running of the operation, but certainly I am still registered as a grain grower.
The DEPUTY SPEAKER: And you worry about the rain—
Mr TRELOAR: I do worry about the rain and the rain that is coming—
The DEPUTY SPEAKER: —this week.
Mr TRELOAR: —at the end of this week. We have already had one big splash, so fingers crossed that it does not come as forecast because, if it does, it will do some damage to this year's crop. Deputy Speaker, you are quite right.
The effect of this bill would be to extend the current GM moratorium from September 2019 to September 2025. I need to make it clear here and now that the Liberal opposition did actually support and do support the moratorium to be in place until September 2019, but we believe that it needs to be reviewed appropriately and comprehensively at that time before a decision is made as to what is done with the moratorium.
In 2004, South Australia, along with other states, introduced a moratorium on genetically-modified crops. Since then, other states have gradually lifted their restrictions. In Victoria, for example, commercial cultivation of GM canola has been permitted since 2008. The member for Hammond talked about other crops, particularly GM cotton (or Bt cotton), which is grown in New South Wales and Queensland where the advantage really is a much reduced amount of pesticide and herbicide that is used on those crops—a great benefit to the environment.
South Australia is the only mainland state to maintain a GM-free zone throughout the country. The government claims this is necessary to maintain South Australia's clean, green marketing advantage; however, in our opinion, it has failed to produce evidence to support this position. In fact, I sourced some research that had been done by Mercado and they have come up with some figures that show the exact opposite. They show that the South Australian grain trade and other goods trade at a discount to other states. This is done over a period of time and indicates a long-term average.
For example, in wheat, Port Adelaide trades at a 3 per cent discount to Geelong. Port Adelaide trades at a 6 per cent discount to Kwinana in Western Australia. For feed barley, Adelaide trades at a 5 per cent discount to Geelong and Port Adelaide trades at a 7 per cent discount to Kwinana. For non-GM canola, Adelaide trades at a 2 per cent discount to Geelong. Adelaide trades at a 3 per cent discount to Kwinana.
For cattle, trade steers traded at a 8.3 per cent discount in South Australia versus Victoria, and mutton and lamb are the same. Regarding wine grapes, the discount in 2017 for South Australian grapes was $240 a tonne against Western Australia. Both states have GM crops growing in close proximity, so the evidence is contrary to what the government is claiming. We certainly stick by our position that we would look to review the policy in 2019.
I am going to quote a good friend of mine who farms in Essex in East Anglia. I stayed with this gentleman back in 2002 and have remained in contact with him. His name is Guy Smith. He officially farms the driest farm in the UK. In 19-inch rainfall, he grows wheat, barley, canola and—
The Hon. T.R. Kenyon: He probably has three times your rainfall, has he?
Mr TRELOAR: No, 19 inches, so very similar actually, Tom, to where we farm. Incredibly, funnily enough, he grows exactly the same crops: wheat, barley, canola and beans. He grows to the acre about what we do to the hectare, as a rough rule of thumb, so it is highly productive. Guy is currently a vice president of the National Farmers Union (NFU) in the UK. At the moment, they are debating the reauthorisation of glyphosate. To Australian farmers, that seems an extraordinary discussion to even be contemplating. In my humble opinion, glyphosate has had the single biggest impact on Australian and world agriculture since the introduction of the traction engine, the tractor. There is no doubt in my mind that that is true. Guy Smith says:
When politicians and administrators stop listening to the authorities charged with scientific evaluation, you get bad regulation.
And that is exactly what is going to happen. I am also going to give another quote, and I have been thinking about this for some time. Charles Darwin said: 'In the long history of humankind…those who learned to…improvise most effectively have prevailed.' And agriculture throughout its history has improvised.
Turnip Townshend and Jethro Tull oversaw the agricultural revolution in the UK in the early 18th century. Turnip Townshend, of course, introduced crop rotation and Jethro Tull developed a seed drill in 1700. He developed a horse-drawn hoe. He developed a mechanical winnower and was roundly ostracised by going against the will of God, and there is a sense of this in this debate, I believe. In South Australia, the Ridley stripper was invented in 1842. Superphosphate was applied to soils. The Correll brothers on Yorke Peninsula developed a seed drill that can sow grain and superphosphate, phosphorous, at the same time.
There has been motorised mechanisation and the introduction of the tractor. In South Australia we were the world leaders in the development of ley farming. In fact, much of that technology was exported. I remember our own department of agriculture sending scientists overseas in the 1970s, particularly to the Middle East to places like Libya and Iraq, to take the technology that had been developed here in South Australia to the rest of the world. It was very successful.
In my time, we saw the introduction of agricultural chemicals, including glyphosate, which I have already mentioned, which allowed farmers to establish their crop with much less work and effort with incredible benefits to soil health. We have seen high analysis fertilisers. Of late, we have seen GPS technology and variable rate technology impact on our machines and the way we farm. They are extraordinary developments. My own father talks about hydraulics, cabs on tractors, the bulk handling of grain. My maternal grandfather said, 'There is no way I am going to go to bulk handling of grain.' Well, of course, he did because it was easier.
My point is that the rate of the uptake of new technology by South Australian and Australian farmers generally has been extraordinary because they see the advantage—until now. Now what we are seeing in this state is the adoption of groundbreaking technology grind to a halt. I believe that the government has overstepped the mark on this one. It is not for government to dictate to farmers what they can and cannot grow. They are dictating to private businesses economic decisions. It smacks of the Eastern Bloc and old Soviet Russia, governments dictating to farmers what they can and cannot grow.
The government says the premiums are real but, as I pointed out, they are not. It is about being competitive and growers producing commodities that are traded on the world market. Our products are commodities—10 million tonnes last year. That is a lot of grain. If we are not competitive, the risk is that we will become irrelevant and may even disappear. Ain't that the truth? It seems to be habit forming in the state. Engineering is not a silver bullet. It would only ever be another tool in the toolbox. It is not as though all would embrace it. No farming system is perfect, but it would give our growers an opportunity they currently do not have. Shame on the government for not allowing it.
Mark Parnell in the other place talks about letting the genie out of the bottle. There is nothing magical about this. This is not magic; this is actually science. It is based on science. Do not be fearful of the future or the science itself: embrace it. The member for Hammond talked a lot about the rest of the world embracing it, and the member for Colton also talked about the rest of the world embracing gene technology, asking why we should follow suit. My real fear is that if we do not, we will become uncompetitive.
Gene editing is just around the corner. Work has been done and much has been said about it. Gene editing is where DNA is inserted, deleted or replaced in the genome. It is incredibly exciting technology. Are we going to be precluded from that technology? Is the government going to allow access to that, or are we simply going to continue cycling about with a stick of bread and a bottle of pinot in a basket? There has been a lack of consultation, a lack of formal data and, unfortunately, it removes choice from growers and caps our potential.
Particularly, I would look to Grain Producers SA. They are the peak representational body in this industry and the government needs to look at the lobbying and the input they are having into this debate. I think it is a big mistake to extend this moratorium without any due diligence, and I think that is the key. We really need to investigate the benefits, or otherwise, that this is giving to marketing and also our farming and production systems. It appears to me to be anti-science, anti-competition and anti-choice.
The Hon. L.W.K. BIGNELL (Mawson—Minister for Agriculture, Food and Fisheries, Minister for Forests, Minister for Tourism, Minister for Recreation and Sport, Minister for Racing) (17:05): I will pick up on the point that the member for Flinders made that you take away the right of people to have their choice. If you bring in GM crops, you take away the choice of all these wonderful producers and food manufacturers that we have. You take away the choice for those people, you take away the choice for those people to market—
Mr Treloar interjecting:
The DEPUTY SPEAKER: Order!
The Hon. L.W.K. BIGNELL: —their food as GM free. Let's have a look at some of the globally recognised—
Mr Treloar interjecting:
The Hon. L.W.K. BIGNELL: Excuse me. I sat here in silence.
The DEPUTY SPEAKER: Order on my left! The member is entitled to be heard in silence.
The Hon. L.W.K. BIGNELL: Let's take a look at some of our globally recognised food producers and food manufacturers here, like San Remo, Tucker's and Coopers, and the list goes on, who use South Australia's GM-free status to help market their goods. I spoke to Sam Tucker two weeks ago. He is just back from the US and he said that when they talk there, it is hard enough to get on as 'organic' onto the shelves of the US at the moment.
The University of Adelaide study has shown that in the four or five years to 2019 the market for non-GM crops is going to double, and the growth is unbelievable over there. It is the same in China and Japan. We know from Kangaroo Island Pure Grain that they are getting a premium of $60 a tonne for their canola. A lot of facts and figures are thrown around by people on the other side. They are not necessarily correct. They are put up as facts.
The DEPUTY SPEAKER: Order!
The Hon. L.W.K. BIGNELL: I did sit here in silence. I did not say a word while either of you spoke.
Mr Pederick interjecting:
The DEPUTY SPEAKER: Order!
The Hon. L.W.K. BIGNELL: But they are put up by you as facts. The member for Hammond spent a lot of his address talking about cotton. We are never going to grow cotton in South Australia. Whether it is GM cotton or non-GM cotton, we are not going to grow it here, so there is absolutely no point in having that discussion in this place.
Mr Pederick interjecting:
The DEPUTY SPEAKER: Order, member for Hammond!
The Hon. L.W.K. BIGNELL: We do not grow GM crops in South Australia; that is what we are proud of. We do not have phylloxera in South Australia, and we should all give thanks to those legislators who went before us in the late 1800s who brought in the phylloxera act to keep out that bug that destroyed vineyards throughout Europe. It is prevalent across all mainland states of Australia where they grow grapes. That was kept out by an act of parliament. We have a duty here as politicians to make sure that we look after the reputation of the state.
When I go to the US or to Europe or to Asia, and I talk to people over there who are looking to buy premium food and wine, I tell them about our great heritage. I tell them that we are the only mainland state in Australia, and one of the few jurisdictions in the world, where it is illegal to grow GM crops, where we do not have phylloxera and where we do not have fruit fly. They are amazing selling points. The Liberal Party want to give all that away to allow canola growers—and not all canola growers either. Many of the people who grow crops here in South Australia want this GM moratorium to be left in place, but the Liberals are happy for it to be lifted so that canola growers can have some advantage, as the Liberals say they will have. They will not have an advantage. They will not have an advantage in terms of the money that they get.
When we look at the price of GM canola compared with non-GM canola in Victoria where they grow both, it is about a $40 difference per tonne, and the non-GM canola gets more than the GM canola. There is no silver bullet for the canola industry here by allowing the growing of GM canola. If we look back at 2007 at a report that was done in Victoria, there was a prediction that, by 2012, 80 per cent of the canola grain in Victoria would be GM canola. The reality is that it is 13 per cent, so farmers have not taken this up as some silver bullet in Victoria and other states where the moratorium has been lifted.
So the Liberal Party wants to trade away the ability for 10 to 15 per cent of canola growers in South Australia to have the right to grow GM at the expense of every other food producer and food manufacturer in this state. We are not going to accept that as the Labor Party. On 17 March, people have a choice: if they want GM crops grown in South Australia, vote Liberal; if they do not want GM crops grown in South Australia, vote Labor. It is a very, very clear message that we need to get out to the voters of South Australia— that the Liberal Party supports GM crops being grown in South Australia and the Labor Party opposes the growing of GM crops in South Australia.
Grain Producers South Australia did a petition, which they launched at the Paskeville Field Days two years ago. They presented it to me a year later. There are 5,800 registered growers of crops in South Australia and 221 people, including the Hon. Terry Stephens in another place, signed that petition. I have gone through the addresses and they are from right around the state, but that is only 221 people out of a state of 1.7 million people, which includes 5,800 registered growers of crops.
Where is this tidal wave of support to allow the growing of GM crops to come into South Australia? I do not see it. I do not hear it. I get around the state quite a lot. I talk to farmers who would like GM crops. I speak to farmers who are totally opposed to the introduction of GM crops. I talk to food manufacturers. I do not think I have ever spoken to a food manufacturer who wants GM crops introduced into South Australia.
Once you let the genie out of the bottle you cannot put it back in. I agree with Mark Parnell, the leader of the Australian Greens in the upper house, and I thank him for bringing this bill into parliament. I think it is a very important piece of legislation. I think it is great that Mark Parnell brought it in and I commend him for doing so. The bill has the total support of our cabinet, our caucus and the Labor Party.
For those canola growers and other crop growers out there who want to make more money, they should copy what Duncan MacGillivray did with his model on Kangaroo Island, and that is to take a marketing point of view instead of considering yourself as a grower a long way away from the market, which I know is a reality. There are a lot of steps, a lot of people and a lot of businesses between you and the person who eats your fantastic GM-free and wonderfully produced crops grown in a clean environment. We need to help the growers market their crops, and we are happy to do that as a government. We will work with Grain Producers SA and we will work with farmers to do that.
I have worked with Grain Producers SA and we agree to disagree on this, but I think many of their members agreed to disagree with the hierarchy of Grain Producers SA as well. I want to keep having a good relationship with them and I want to thank Darren Arney, who I know has just announced that he is moving on to another role. I want to pay tribute to Darren, even though we do have completely different views on the growing of GM crops. I want to thank Darren for the good humour, I suppose, with which he has gone about his job. We have always been able to have a beer and discuss things, and I think we are all as one in trying to help South Australian farmers any way we can.
I want to commend South Australia's grain farmers as well. If we look back at the past eight seasons, we have had eight seasons in a row above the 10-year average. That is incredible. Did we have great weather in all those eight years? No. We got bigger crops because the farmers did a great job in the way they managed their farms. They are resilient people. They are people who embrace technology. I also want to thank the people up at Waite who have worked on new strains through crossbreeding to make sure that the seeds that our farmers plant are the most suitable seeds for our environment here in South Australia.
This is not a war against farmers. This is people, even within the farming community, having different points of view. However, as a government, we have to stand on the side that protects the majority of people. We are talking not just about canola farmers here; we are talking about all farmers and all food manufacturers. We are talking about everyone who wants to go to market to be proud of what it is that they produce and to tell the world that it comes from a place where it is illegal to grow GM crops. We stand proud and tall when we go into overseas markets and talk about our credentials here: GM free, phylloxera free and fruit fly free. I think every South Australian should be very proud of that. I commend the bill to the house.
Bill read a second time.
Mr PEDERICK: I wonder if the minister agrees with the Premier on his thoughts about genetically-modified crops when the Premier said that there are not many votes in regional areas, so it does not matter?
The Hon. L.W.K. BIGNELL: I think the Liberal Party is guilty of taking the Premier's quotes out of context.
The CHAIR: Order!
The Hon. L.W.K. BIGNELL: No, we have heard this time and time again when someone takes a full quote and they come in here and try to purport that that is the full quote. This has happened not just in this place but elsewhere. The Premier said:
The truth is, you know, there are not a lot of votes out there in country South Australia for us. We don't, so we're—in some ways we're sort of free of the electoral—
Mr Pederick interjecting:
The Hon. L.W.K. BIGNELL: That's where you cut it off. I will start again so that we get the full quote:
The truth is, you know, there are not a lot of votes out there in country South Australia for us. We don't—in some ways we're sort of free of the electoral imperatives about this. We're trying to do what's right rather than what's popular.
What the Premier was saying was that we are going to put South Australia first so that we do not have to have the pressure of some farmers in lobby groups coming to us all the time and saying, 'We need to bring in GM crops because my farm is down the road from your farm, as the local member, and we need this to happen.' That is what he was saying.
The Premier is out there all the time in regional South Australia. He introduced the country cabinets, where we go out and spend time in country communities right around this state, and he is a big backer of regional South Australia and, indeed, the agricultural sector.
Mr Pederick interjecting:
The Hon. L.W.K. BIGNELL: No, it does not contradict what I just said. What the Premier said is that we can do the right thing by South Australia. We will not be listening to a small group of farmers who live around where you might live, member for Hammond. We can take a holistic point of view.
We talk to farmers right across the whole state, we talk to food manufacturers right around the whole state, and we take a very strong view. It was the Premier and this cabinet who came up with South Australia's key economic priorities. One of those top key economic priorities was premium food and wine produced in our clean environment and exported to the world, so we are going to stick the distance on that.
We are absolutely going to stick the distance on premium food and wine produced in our clean environment and exported to the world because it is a very important economic priority. If we look at the carpet in this place, it has wheat and grapes. There is no other industry represented there. It is all about the agriculture, and we need to do what the politicians did here in the late 1800s with the phylloxera act, and we need to stick up for all South Australians.
Mr PEDERICK: In regard to the GM canola trials and seed bulking out that have been conducted in South Australia of genetically-modified canola, how many ministerial exemptions has the minister, and other Labor ministers, presided over for this since 2002, and how many hectares of genetically-modified canola have been sown in South Australia under these exemptions?
The Hon. L.W.K. BIGNELL: As far as we can tell, there have been 14 exemptions allowed and eight of those are still current.
Mr PEDERICK: The rest of the question was: how many hectares have been sown to genetically-modified canola in that time in South Australia?
The Hon. L.W.K. BIGNELL: We do not have that information on us, but the information about where these exemptions are made is available on the PIRSA website. We are not trying to hide anything here. You talk about the science; we allow the researchers up at Waite to do research into genetically-modified crops.
Mr PEDERICK: Can you confirm, minister, that companies have bulked out genetically-modified canola like grown seed crops in South Australia?
The Hon. L.W.K. BIGNELL: Yes, there have been some on small allotments. The seed can be grown here but the crop has to be destroyed. That is all under the auspices of the Gene Technology Regulator, so it is controlled.
Mr TRELOAR: I have a question on clause 1 as well. It relates to something I touched on in my second reading contribution around gene editing. Gene editing is when DNA is inserted, deleted or replaced in the genome. It is the next tranche of technology, if you like. Will plants that have been developed under a gene-editing regime be allowed to be grown under the extended moratorium?
The Hon. L.W.K. BIGNELL: The definition will be picked up from the commonwealth legislation, so that is where that will be decided.
Mr PEDERICK: I have a few more questions regarding the genetic modification of canola. Has the minister ever visited the Waite campus?
The Hon. L.W.K. BIGNELL: Yes, I have, several times.
Mr PEDERICK: In regard to that, minister, have you visited the Plant Accelerator and the genetically modified side of the Plant Accelerator program?
The Hon. L.W.K. BIGNELL: Yes, I have.
Mr PEDERICK: Regarding the final summary report from the University of Adelaide, entitled 'Identification and assessment of added-value export market opportunities for non-GMO labelled food products from South Australia' and the recommended next steps in the process, the first one is to:
Invite SA businesses interviewed as part of the study to a presentation and discussion of the findings.
Has that next step been taken?
The Hon. L.W.K. BIGNELL: Most of the businesses interviewed by the University of Adelaide did so on a confidential basis, so trying to get them all together has proved a bit more difficult than we would have liked. We did have an attempt at that in September but they are sort of spread out across the state and they travel quite frequently. We are still working on bringing them together, but PIRSA is working with a number of different businesses individually. We just have not had the opportunity to get them all together as a group.
Mr PEDERICK: I refer you to recommended next steps No. 2:
Liaise with Food SA to include the findings in industry workshops it will be conducting as part of developing their ‘Growth through Innovation Strategy’.
Has that liaising been done with Food SA?
The Hon. L.W.K. BIGNELL: Yes, it has. PIRSA works very closely with Food SA. I know you were at the food awards the other night and when I mentioned that I would be bringing this bill into the lower house there was a round of applause, too.
Mr PEDERICK: I refer to recommended next steps No. 3, which is:
Depending on sufficient industry support, provide a briefing to relevant Government Ministers on the findings and implications for Government policies and programs.
Has recommendation No. 3 been taken forward?
The Hon. L.W.K. BIGNELL: Yes, absolutely. All ministers were briefed on the findings of this report in September last year.
The CHAIR: Nearly finished, member for Hammond?
Mr PEDERICK: We are getting there.
The CHAIR: It is just that we are very broadly ranging around—
Mr PEDERICK: Yes, it is all very important.
The CHAIR: I am not doubting its importance.
Mr PEDERICK: This is all part of the report. Can you explain to the house where in the report it states that there is a benefit to all our crops and produce in South Australia being genetically-modified free?
The Hon. L.W.K. BIGNELL: The report looked at the global market and global trends, and it backed up what I had heard during trips to the Netherlands and the US, which was that the growth in the non-GM market at the retail end is growing much quicker than any other food sector. That is what the report was all about. I must admit that PIRSA went to the University of Adelaide and asked them to do this research. I think when they were asked to do it, the researchers involved were a little sceptical that there was going to be a big advantage in South Australia remaining non-GM. But, as the report bears out, there are great opportunities for South Australia to continue its GM-free status on behalf of all food producers in the state.
Remaining clause (2) and title passed.
Bill reported without amendment.
The Hon. L.W.K. BIGNELL (Mawson—Minister for Agriculture, Food and Fisheries, Minister for Forests, Minister for Tourism, Minister for Recreation and Sport, Minister for Racing) (17:27): I move:
That this bill be now read a third time.
Bill read a third time and passed.
28th November 2018
Genetically Modified Crops Management Regulations (Postponement of Expiry) Bill
The House of Assembly agreed to the bill without any amendment.
For more information see a copy of the Bill and Mark's second reading speech on 18/10/17
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