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South Australia to lift ban on GM crops

A long-standing moratorium on genetically-modified crops in South Australia is to be lifted.

The state government says it will allow GM food crops to be grown on the SA mainland from next season but will maintain the ban on Kangaroo Island.

“This reform will help increase farm profitability and drought resilience, create job opportunities in our regions, grow the state’s economy and attract greater research investment,” Primary Industries Minister Tim Whetstone said on Monday.

The move has been welcomed by the agriculture sector which said it was based on the best available science.

“South Australians can be assured that lifting the GM moratorium will not impact current agricultural commodity price premiums, nor will it impact any other farmers who choose to continue with conventional or organic crops,” CropLife Australia chief executive Matthew Cossey said.

“The proposed removal of the moratorium does not alter the strict licencing and accreditation rules surrounding the use of GM crops”

The GM ban was imposed by the previous Labor government in 2003 and was due to continue until 2025.

Labor repeatedly defended the moratorium as part of SA’s “clean and green” image as a primary producer and because of the higher prices paid for GM-free crops.

But a review earlier this year found the ban had cost the state’s farmers up to $33 million over the past 15 years and that would increase by another $5 million in lost investment if it continued until 2025.

The review also found there was no evidence of the GM-free status rewarded grain growers with higher returns.

Mr Whetstone said a statutory six-week consultation period would start from Monday after which the government would introduce new regulations to allow the growing of GM crops.

“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,” he said.

“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.”

Mr Whetstone said retaining the ban on Kangaroo Island would also prove to existing markets that segregation of GM and GM-free crops could be successful.

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