Question

Legislative Council

QUESTION: Minister gives approval for new genetic modification techniques

September 20th, 2018

On the 20th of September, Mark asked the Minister for Health and Wellbeing questions about the government's support for the deregulation of new genetic modification techniques.

The Hon. M.C. PARNELL: In question time on Tuesday 18 September, I asked the Minister for Health and Wellbeing about the Marshall Liberal government's position on draft changes to the gene technology regulations that would deregulate a number of new GM techniques. I put to the minister that in his capacity as a member of the Legislative and Governance Forum on Gene Technology he had been asked to approve these changes. In the minister's reply, he said:

"…I believe I am a member of the long-named forum he suggested and, in fact, I think I am attending a meeting of the forum next month. In terms of the detail of the honourable member's question, I am sure that I will be briefed on that issue leading into the forum."

Later that day, I wrote to the minister to inform him that the Legislative and Governance Forum on Gene Technology intended to make a decision on the proposed changes out of session and feedback from states had been due by last Friday 14 September.

Yesterday, the minister, in this chamber, provided an additional answer to my question, confirming that an out of session decision has actually been sought and that he had already responded in support of the draft regulations. The minister also provided me with a copy of his reply to the Legislative and Governance Forum on Gene Technology, which was dated 5 September. Notwithstanding the fact that he had already made a decision, two days later, on 7 September, he wrote to a key stakeholder group, saying:

"I appreciate you taking the time to contact me and outlining your concerns with the new genetic modification techniques. I will take your views into account when considering my response to the review of the National Gene Technology Scheme and the Technical Review of the Commonwealth Gene Technology Regulations."

My questions to the minister are:

1. Why did the minister tell stakeholders he would take their views into account when he had already made a decision? Will he now apologise to stakeholders for misleading them?

2. Will the minister now commit to revisiting his decision, which effectively endorses the unregulated environmental release of GMOs into South Australia and undermining the legislated moratorium?

3. Why has the minister been asleep at the wheel on this most important issue?

The Hon. S.G. WADE (Minister for Health and Wellbeing): I thank the honourable member for his question. In terms of the letter of 7 September, it does mention both the review and the regulations. I regret the fact that, in terms of timing, I may not have picked up the particular issue in relation to the regulations, but, as I indicated to the house earlier in the week, the gene technology forum is involved in both the review of the National Gene Technology Scheme and the Technical Review of the Commonwealth Gene Technology Regulations.

Because of the commonwealth parliamentary sitting program, it was intended that the forum itself would consider the regulations out of session, but the technical review will be an ongoing matter for consideration of the forum. As I advised the house earlier in the week, I am advised that the proposed changes to the commonwealth regulations will provide an interim solution to deal with current uncertainty for operators and ensure that the scheme continues to operate in accordance with its primary objectives.

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