Kangaroo Island retains GM-free status as rules relaxed for SA

COMMITTEE VISIT: Parliamentary Upper House select committee into GM crops visited the KI Pure Grain silos on Kangaroo Island in April 2019.
COMMITTEE VISIT: Parliamentary Upper House select committee into GM crops visited the KI Pure Grain silos on Kangaroo Island in April 2019.

Kangaroo Island will retain its GM-free status, so crucial for its export markets, while the GM crop regulations for the rest of South Australia are relaxed.

The SA Government on Monday, August 19 announced farmers on mainland South Australia will be given the choice to plant Genetically Modified (GM) food crops next season.

The decision to lift the Genetically Modified Food Crops Moratorium on mainland South Australia, but retain it on Kangaroo Island, follows recommendations from a high-level independent review undertaken by Emeritus Professor Kym Anderson AC.

A statutory six-week consultation commences this week and following its completion the SA Government will introduce new regulations giving farmers choice and lifting the GM moratorium across mainland South Australia.

KI Pure Grain CEO Shane Mills welcomed the announcement.

"This is good news, particularly for the Island's canola growers, and it coincides with KI Pure Grains 10th year that will be celebrated at harvest later this year," Mr Mills said.

Over the years, the Island's grain marketing company had built up an excellent relationships, particularly with the Japanese who paid a premium for KI's GM-free canola.

Agriculture KI chairman Rick Morris said the decision was good news for mainland farmers, who would be able to utilise GM canola in the future to manage weeds in a more sustainable manner.

"And who knows what other advantages will come their way in the future with drought tolerance, insect and disease resistance for the croppers and improved dry matter production for the graziers looking promising," Mr Morris said.

"AgKI are supportive of KIPG's wish to remain within the GM moratorium in the near future. However, we will be keenly anticipating any new GM material that may benefit island producers on the whole and will work with our members and KIPG to review the moratorium if necessary.

"Other states have successfully segregated GM canola from all other conventional crops, we can do that on KI as well if the need arises - in the meantime KIPG have a niche market and this will only help their marketing campaign."

Bringing sheep-feed to the island was not an issue as the changes only dealt with GM canola at this stage, he said.

Minister's ruling

Minister for Primary Industries and Regional Development, Tim Whetstone said the Anderson Review found the GM moratorium in South Australia provided no price premium compared with GM crop growing neighbouring states.

"The Anderson Review found the moratorium has cost South Australian grain growers at least $33 million since 2004 and will cost farmers at least a further $5 million if extended to 2025, harming this state's ability to attract investment in agricultural research and development," Mr Whetstone said.

"Considering the future economic impact on farmers, it is time to lift the moratorium on the mainland and provide farmers choice on crops they seek to grow.

"This reform will help increase farm profitably and drought resilience, create job opportunities in our regions, grow the state's economy and attract greater research investment.

"Given the moratorium was justified by the former Labor Government for marketing and trade purposes and the review found there is no premium for South Australian grain when comparing data on prices from neighbouring states, it is time our farmers are rightly given the choice on what they grow.

"Both Grain Producers South Australia and the GM Crop Advisory Committee recommended lifting the moratorium on mainland South Australia while recognising that one group of producers on Kangaroo Island has an established market for non-GM canola in Japan."

Minister Whetstone said earlier consultations found there were farmers on Kangaroo Island who did want the option of planting GM varieties in the future.

"Retaining the moratorium on the Island will provide a chance to prove to existing markets segregation can be as successful and reliable in the South Australian grains industry as it is in other Australian states," Mr Whetstone said.

"The Marshall Liberal Government has a strong reform agenda and commitment to grow our agriculture sector and this reform complements measures already in place such as abolishing payroll tax for small businesses, slashing Emergency Service Levy bills, and the Flinders Ports' channel widening project.

"We need to be able to give our farmers the choice to take advantage of any new GM crops and pastures that may come to market, particularly given the challenges with a variable climate."

The statutory consultation commences today with submissions to inform the new regulations accepted until 5pm, September 30.

In accordance with the Genetically Modified Crops Management Act 2004 formal written submissions will be accepted, and public meetings will be held in Adelaide and Kangaroo Island.

For more information visit www.pir.sa.gov.au/gmreview