South Australia will allow mainland farmers to grow genetically-modified (GM) crops from next season, but councils can apply to remain GM-free.
The change, which comes after the Government made multiple attempts to lift the ban last year, will bring SA in line with the rest of mainland Australia.
Primary Industries Minister Tim Whetstone said he had negotiated in good faith with the Opposition to reach a “workable” outcome.
“Today is a positive day for our farmers and regional communities, having that moratorium lifted,” Mr Whetstone said.
“This takes away any advantage other states have had and the economic constraints we’ve lived under for the past 16 years.
“This gives farmers the choice and will bring research and development programs our way.”
The decision to lift the ban followed an independent review that estimated a $33 million loss in canola crops alone since 2004.
Local councils wishing to remain GM-free will have six months to apply to am advisory committee answerable to Mr Whetstone.
Kangaroo Island will maintain the ban because of the demands of its export markets, according to Mr Whetstone.
Growers happy to have choice
SA’s peak lobby group for grain growers said it was an “extraordinary” day.
“Today we’ve finally seen a breakthrough in this debate that the industry has been working on since 2004,” Grain Producers SA chief executive Caroline Rhodes said.
“We’ve seen a compromised position that, whilst not ideal, does give an opportunity for some sensible legislation to go through parliament and give certainty to the industry.
“Seeding is already underway in South Australia and while farmers won’t be able to get a crop in this year, I know there is huge appetite and interest in trialling GM canola varieties that are grown across mainland Australia and seeing how they perform in South Australia.
“I expect growers over the next few months will be engaging not only with local agronomists, but with their interstate counterparts about what this will mean for their farming environment.”
Robin Schaefer, the general manager at Bulla Burra farm in Loxton, said the ban being lifted would help to level the playing field.
“We are just really keen to see the GM ban lifted so that South Australia can get out of the dark ages,” he said.
“My only concerns is that we don’t end up with hotspots across the state of councils that have GM and that don’t have GM, otherwise that will be really pretty difficult to manage on all fronts.
“I think most rural councils will have a pretty reasonable understanding of what this means for their farming constituents.
“So I would hope it wouldn’t impact significantly.
“I would think that a lot of the ones that would apply are the city-based ones, where the push is for the moratorium to stay in place.”