Legislation to lift the ban on genetically modified crops on the South Australian mainland is set to pass state parliament after negotiations between the Liberal government and the Labor opposition.
Primary Industries Minister Tim Whetstone says under proposed amendments local councils will have six months to apply to remain GM-free, though a final decision will still rest with the minister.
Kangaroo Island will also remain GM-free.
“This agreement is a great outcome for South Australian farmers who will have the opportunity to reap the benefits of growing GM where that is best for their business,” Mr Whetstone said.
SA’s GM moratorium was first introduced in 2003 by the previous Labor government and under the current legislation is due to remain in place until 2025.
The Liberal government last year conducted an independent review that found the ban had cost the state’s grain growers at least $33 million over the previous 15 years.
In response, the government drafted a bill to lift the ban but it was defeated.
The minister then twice regulated to allow GM crops, with the first of those measures disallowed in another vote in the state’s upper house.
Mr Whetstone then introduced a second set of regulations that came into force in January this year, but they had been expected to be disallowed again in parliament this week.
He said passage of the legislation would provide farmers with the certainty they need to invest in GM seed and plant GM crops in time for the 2021 grain growing season.
“After 16 years and millions of dollars in lost economic and research opportunities, it is a historic day for farmers in this state who can look forward to the choice in what they want to grow,” the minister said.
“Lifting the moratorium will not only provide economic benefits for our farmers but it will put South Australia on a level playing field with every other mainland state in Australia which has had access to GM technology for at least a decade.”
Supporters of the ban have long argued it helps SA growers, especially in export markets, by maintaining the state’s clean and green image when it comes to food production.
Originally published as GM crops ban set to go in South Australia