Legislation introduced after GM changes blocked

GM bill before upper house

The state government introduced legislation to parliament Tuesday to remove the Genetically Modified (GM) crop moratorium on the South Australian mainland.

A motion last week blocked regulatory changes to immediately lift the ban, after it was argued the government was side-stepping parliamentary due process by not having the issue properly debated.

The new regulations to lift the moratorium were intended to come into effect by December 1 but Labor, Greens and SA-Best voted in favour of a disallowance motion in the upper house last week.

The Genetically Modified Crops Management (Designated Area) Amendment Bill 2019 was passed in the lower house on Tuesday night, and the upper house may debate the bill Thursday, also expected to be the last parliamentary sitting day of the year.

Primary Industries and Regional Development Minister Tim Whetstone said he wanted to ensure farmers could plan their 2020 crops.

"Last week we were challenged to bring forward legislation so we are doing exactly that and we will be asking the parliament to deal with the bill this week to provide our farmers with certainty for planning their 2020 crop," he said on Tuesday.

"The (bill) will designate Kangaroo Island as the only place in South Australia where the GM moratorium will exist from 1 January 2020 until it expires on 1 September 2025 as per current arrangements."

Mr Whetstone said on Wednesday adopting the bill was now up to the upper house.

"The lifting of the GM moratorium here in South Australia is now before the upper house, and crossbenchers and Labor now have the opportunity to support our farmers to give our farmers the choice," he said.

"Currently the crossbenchers and the opposition have it in their court...it's about supporting our grain growers, giving them the choice and making sure that South Australia are on a level footing with the other mainland states across the country.

"The decision to lift the GM crop moratorium followed extensive industry and community consultation, as well as the findings of the high-level independent expert review undertaken by Professor Kym Anderson and the recommendations of the GM Crop Advisory Committee."

Chief executive officer of Grain Producers SA Caroline Rhodes said the bill would apply pressure to "all sides of politics" to form a policy on GM crops.

"GPSA calls upon SA-Best and Labor to put politics aside, listen to the science and economic evidence, and back this long overdue reform for the benefit of regional South Australia," she said.

"This issue needs to be settled this week to give farmers certainty for the 2020 season.

"South Australian agriculture has been unfairly stigmatised by anti-GM ideology for the past 15 years.

"The momentum is behind South Australian growers and as we have seen from public consultation, the weight of public opinion is in favour of growers having freedom of choice.

"GPSA will be seeing this debate through until the very end."

If the bill does not pass parliament this year, the state government will reconsider regulatory options.

This story GM bill before upper house first appeared on Port Lincoln Times.