GM repeal Bill due to go to Parliament

19 Nov, 2015 01:00 AM
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LEGISLATION to repeal the Genetically Modified (GM) Crops Free Areas Act is due to be tabled in the WA parliament.

Sources close to the case said they expected the repeal Bill could be tabled this week having passed through cabinet but may not be debated until next February.

The repeal Bill could also be moved as part of an omnibus repeal Bill that may be tabled next week, aimed at cutting government red tape to reduce costs and increase efficiency.

Agriculture and Food Minister Ken Baston declined to comment on cabinet discussions to Farm Weekly but said the WA government was committed to repealing the Act.

"There are several steps required to repeal an Act and we are currently well advanced in terms of working through this process," he said.

"I believe that the WA grains industry is sufficiently mature to manage its international markets without the intervention of government and therefore believe there is no longer a need for this marketing-based legislation.

"Once a crop is deemed safe by the federal regulator, I firmly believe growers should have the choice to plant those crops that most suit their production system."

Moves to repeal the Act are being pushed by farm groups which fear the legislation could be used by a future Labor government to re-introduce a ban on GM crops in WA, especially if the ALP needed the Greens' support in the Upper House to form government.

WA Labor has threatened to use the laws to stop WA growers accessing the technology, if they were to be voted in at the next State poll in 2017.

Commercial production of GM canola was first allowed in WA by the current Liberal/National government in 2010, following successful large-scale on-farm trials the season before.

An exemption order was written by then agriculture minister Terry Redman allowing GM canola to be grown across the State.

Mr Baston has previously described the Act as "a piece of legislation purely designed for prohibition".

Introduced in 2003, it provides the agriculture minister with powers to designate areas of the State where GM crops can't be cultivated, or specific GM crops.

It also gives the minister powers to destroy GM crops and imposes $200,000 penalty for recklessly or knowingly growing the technology in restricted areas.

According to figures provided by Monsanto Australia, the amount of GM canola planted in WA has steadily increased, with 86,000 hectares planted in 2010, 94,800ha in 2011, 121,694ha in 2012, 167,596ha in 2013, 260,000ha in 2014 and 337,000ha this year.

Shadow Agriculture Minister Mick Murray said Labor stood by its anti-GM policy and if elected in 2017, the party would work to rectify legislation to reflect this.

"We will look at all aspects of GM - it's not as easy as turning it off," he said.

"It's in the ground now and there will be a period of years to go about that.

"We're not going to turn off grower's livelihoods in a day but certainly we will be employing our policy, which is anti-GM, but there will be phase out methods."

Mr Murray said his party's concerns with GM lay with food labelling, consumer safety and recognition that consumers and countries were calling for GM-free products.

"We're already seeing a huge increase in allergies and intolerances that we haven't had before and we may get huge reactions in the future because it's an unknown," he said.

"The world is changing where they're demanding GM-free grains and countries are having second thoughts about accepting GM grains.

"We should be one of the few places in the world that is GM free and meet the demand."

The Nationals WA Agricultural Region MLC Paul Brown said he had supported the introduction of GM crops into WA since Mr Redman made the exemptions for trials and subsequent commercial production.

He said while having previously been concerned with the introduction of GM into WA under previous governments, The Nationals WA were convinced of the benefits of GM to the State's agricultural production systems.

"We see GM as a valuable tool that will assist our modern farmers with doubling agricultural production over the next decade," he said.

"This does not diminish our support for conventional and organic farming.

"We are already seeing that demand in all of our overseas and domestic markets increasing for produce from all of these production methods."

Mr Brown said WA produced nearly 65 per cent of all GM canola grown in Australia and nearly 33pc of all canola grown in WA was from GM varieties, while more than 95pc of all cotton grown in Australia was GM.

"Introduction of these GM varieties has led to a significant reduction in the use of very harmful chemicals that have residual hangovers into later crop production," he said.

"Markets that the opponents of GM said will be closed to Australia grain and produce are happily accepting our GM and non-GM grains at record levels."

Both major agriculture lobby groups in WA have called on the WA government to follow through on promises to repeal the Act and have welcomed news it could happen this week.

WAFarmers Grain Council president Duncan Young said it would be great news for all farmers in WA if the repeal process was to get under way.

"It would be nice if it is all resolved well and truly prior to campaigning for the next election," he said.

"I think the reality for most people, even if they don't want to use the technology, is they recognise that it is safe and if it wasn't it wouldn't be approved in this country or other countries.

"This piece of State legislation was only put in place for market reasons and these reasons don't exist any more.

"Why would we have another piece of legislation when it comes under the auspice of the Federal Government anyway? It is silly."

Out-going Pastoralists and Graziers Association (PGA) Western Graingrowers Committee chairman John Snooke said the start of the repeal process was a milestone for the WA government and also for growers.

"From a PGA perspective we think this is a vote of confidence in agriculture and its supply chains and farmers' ability to be the decision makers on what they grow and how they market their grain," he said.

Mr Snooke said while there would be opposition to the repeal, with many drawing on the Marsh vs Baxter case, the GM Crops Free Areas Act was a separate issue.

"The Marsh vs Baxter case is an issue about an organic grower being decertified for the unintentional incursion of a safe product on his farm," Mr Snooke said.

"It has given the industry a better understanding of the law and that's what the organic association needs to look at in terms of whether their standards are suitable for their organic growers."

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READER COMMENTS

Mug
19/11/2015 5:30:56 AM, on Stock Journal

What a pity this was politicised. Big bully boy brother is having his way. My same old question--"what about the escapes"?
robinj
19/11/2015 7:22:38 AM, on Farm Weekly

This bill will undoubtably be repealed, but the rights of the individual property owners must be upheld and where contamination occurs compensation must be paid
Rural Realist
19/11/2015 11:36:27 AM, on Farm Weekly

The 'escapes' and 'contamination' can be handled by the federal governing body OGTR. No need to have double/triple handling for regulation.
x
19/11/2015 8:23:53 PM, on Farm Weekly

The genie is out of the bottle , its time for co-existence and for the farmer to have access to every tool of technology available
wtf
20/11/2015 8:55:59 AM, on Farm Weekly

How has the regulator deemed them safe, 100% of animal studies undertaken on GM crops in Aust have shown genetic modification to cause negative health effects. Other Aust GM products are not tested the same way, is that not a problem? to deem them safe to humans would require epidemiological studies, these have not been done. 54% of US children (under 17) have a chronic health condition, was that the same 40 years ago? many of those chronic conditions are the same recorded in GM animal studies, such as obesity and increased allergies.
muck jockro
24/11/2015 4:41:26 PM, on Farm Weekly

wtf you call that science. kids having obesity issues has nothing to do with GM just too many burgers.

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