National

SA to lift ban on GM crops

By AAP Newswire

A long-standing ban on genetically-modified crops in South Australia will be lifted from December.

The state government has gazetted new regulations to allow GM crops on the SA mainland after taking community feedback during a six-week consultation period.

However, the ban will remain on Kangaroo Island.

"It is time to lift the moratorium on the mainland and allow farmers the opportunity to make informed choices about what to sow, based on their individual businesses and specific conditions," Primary Industries Minister Tim Whetstone said.

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.

Lifting the moratorium 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.

But the Gene Ethics group, which supports a GM-free Australia, said dropping the moratorium would be a betrayal of the vote in state parliament and argued the existing arrangements had broad farmer and community support.

"The winners from lifting the GM ban would be foreign seed and agrochemical companies and the losers South Australia's farmers and shoppers," director Bob Phelps said.

"The state government should stay GM-free and get behind farmers and food businesses to earn substantial GM-free premiums in Australian and overseas markets."