Wine industry's fears over GM crops

Wine industry representatives are worried about the threat of GM crops on the wine industry.
Wine industry representatives are worried about the threat of GM crops on the wine industry.

The Limestone Coast wine industry is combining forces with other wine associations in the hopes of having the decision to allow genetically modified crops into South Australia overturned.

Naracoorte Lucindale Council recently voted not to apply to have the region allocated as a GM free zone, following extensive public consultation.

But Executive Director of the Limestone Coast Wine Council Ulrich Grey-Smith said allowing GM crops to be grown in the wine-growing regions of South Australia could have a devastating effect on the wine industry.

"Speaking from a wine sector point of view, GM is not allowed under our food safety rules," he said.

"There are some specific clauses by Food Safety Australia and New Zealand which say we cannot use genetically modified food in the making and selling of wine, so it is a concern for us that it is allowed, because it may affect our market if some contamination comes across.

"The concern for us is that we'll get a bit of seed drift on the wind and we start having GM crops growing within our vineyard rows, and that may call into question or GM free status, which is there by law.

"There is an anomaly there for us - more than half our wine in Australia is exported and perceptions are everything when it comes to clean and green.

"The concern is if there is a canola crop growing right next to a vineyard, and there is drift and some cross contamination happens, the vineyard will no longer be considered GM free."

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He said the organisation had written to all the councils in the Limestone Coast area, and was engaged with the Limestone Coast and state Local Government Associations, and the wine bodies of the Barossa Valley, McLaren Vale and Adelaide Hills.

"We were hoping the moratorium would stay in place, but it hasn't, so we are just working through it," he said.

"We are working with our national lobby body Australian Grape and Wine, we are getting some good help from them.

"The councils all have to make their own decisions, except Kangaroo Island which is exempt, we are asking for an exemption now too."

he said the industry didn't wish to stop GM crops from being grown, but wanted to minimise the potential for seed drift.

"With GM canola, if anyone does plant it, maybe do it nowhere near a vineyard and it's really not going to be an issue," he said.

"As the wine sector, we don't want to stop anyone else from doing anything, but if our markets are affected then we have to say something."

Until this year, GM crops were not allowed to be grown in SA, but changes to the genetically Modified Crops Management Act will allow GM food crops to be grown across South Australia, except on Kangaroo Island.