Government, SA-Best introduce GM bills to parliament

Genetically modified crop legislation was yesterday introduced into state parliament by SA-Best.

The state government also introduced a GM bill into parliament on Tuesday, despite technically making GM crops legal in late December from January 1 by lifting regulations.

Agriculture spokesperson of SA-Best Frank Pangallo said his bill enables the agriculture sector to use GM technology, but also allows for GM and non-GM farmers to co-exist "with a more balanced approach".

"SA-Best's position on GM crops has been very clear - we fully support the introduction of GM crops, but it needs to be fair for everyone involved," he said.

"We support farmers' and their rights to choose to grow the crops of their choosing, but there needs to be choice, flexibility, compromise and protections for GM and non-GM producers.

"We believe our bill has the necessary safeguards while not hindering the introduction of GM in South Australia - along with encouraging investment in agriculture in this state and promoting our world-leading research in the area of biotechnology.

"I hope the state government and the opposition see the merits in what we are proposing."

Measures in the Genetically Modified Crops Management (Miscellaneous) Amendment Bill 2020 introduced by Mr Pangallo include a 10 metre buffer zone between neighbouring GM and non-GM properties; a non-GM farmer being able to request an inspection for contamination by the Enivronmental Protection Authority; and non-GM farmers are entitled to damages from the patent holder if they have suffered losses, without needing to prove negligence.

Mr Pangallo also outlined the threshold for contamination must be great than 0.9 per cent.

GM crop farmers will also need to give 60 days' notice to neighbours before sowing and harvesting their crops.

Mr Pangallo also plans to legislate the moratorium on Kangaroo Island, so it is not just covered by regulations.

Port Lincoln farmer Mark Modra said he recognised that Mr Pangallo was trying to do the right thing for the wider community.

"I appreciate that Frank is actively looking at the issue and has been open minded and has a genuine interest in looking after the welfare of the wider community," he said.

"But my question is why can't we implement policies from other states?...GM has been successful in other states."

Mr Modra said some of the amendments were also of a concern.

"The 10 metre buffer is a problem - what do you do with the ground in between?...there is risk of erosion," he said.

Mr Modra said the state government, while pushing through the lifting of regulations from January 1, knew it was going to face opposition when parliament resumed.

"You need to work with the other parties...they didn't make any friends and there is politics at play," he said.

Primary Industries Minister Tim Whetstone introduced his bill into parliament on Tuesday.

"Today, I introduce the Genetically Modified Crops Management (Designated Area) Amendment Bill 2020 to provide another opportunity for the Parliament to consider this issue," he said on Tuesday.

"This bill is identical to the 2019 bill other than its commencement being by proclamation and the inclusion of a mandatory review clause...this clause requires a review of the operation and impacts of this reform to be completed by September 1 2024 and tabled in parliament within six sitting days.

"The bill gives effect to the government's position that the moratorium should only apply to Kangaroo Island.

"It is past time South Australian farmers are provided with the same choices as their neighbours in other Australian states to use new and improved crop varieties and agricultural technologies to tackle the challenges they face.

"Farmers that do not choose to grow genetically modified crops will be able to continue to sell to non-genetically modified and organic markets as farmers have successfully done in other states using segregation protocols that have proven to be successful and reliable."

This story Government, SA-Best introduce GM bills to parliament first appeared on Port Lincoln Times.