GM repeal a step closer to reality

13 Jul, 2016 02:00 AM
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Duncan Young, WAFarmers grains section president, is calling for a repeal of the GM Free Areas Act in his home state.
Duncan Young, WAFarmers grains section president, is calling for a repeal of the GM Free Areas Act in his home state.

THE PROPOSED bill to repeal the Western Australian 2003 Genetically Modified (GM) Crops Free Areas Act is a step closer to reality after passing the WA Parliament’s Upper House.

The WA Legislative Council voted 18 to 9 to pass the repeal bill, which will now be introduced to the lower house.

WA Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Agriculture Jim Chown said the repeal bill had been tabled in the legislative assembly and was likely to be debated once Parliament resumed following the winter recess in mid-August.

If the bill passes the lower house, decisions on growers’ rights to produce GM crops in WA will revert back to the national Office of the Gene Technology Regulator (OGTR), which administers permits to grow GM crops in Australia, rather than the State Government.

Mr Chown said he was confident the bill would pass.

“Absolutely I am confident and I think this will be a great step forward for agriculture in this State,” he said.

“It is not only good for the GM canola and cotton industries which are currently grown commercially here, but down the track for crops such as GM wheat and barley, which are at the trial stage at present.”

The GM Free Areas bill was initially passed as safety mechanism to ensure the introduction of GM crops did not impact market access for other producers.

However, detractors of the bill say it has created uncertainty in both the production and seed development sectors of WA agriculture regarding the long term future of GM crops in the State.

Nick Goddard, of the Australian Oilseeds Federation (AOF) said the canola seed breeding sector welcomed the news, which he said would create certainty for investment in Australia’s largest GM canola market.

“This just allows the biotechnology sector to invest in breeding with more certainty, WA is pretty well entrenched as our largest market for GM canola seed,” he said.

Duncan Young, WAFarmers grains section president, said the repeal act was long overdue.

“It gives certainty both to the breeders and to us farmers,” he said.

“A lot of farmers in WA don’t grow GM, but have indicated down the track they might like to and they want to know with certainty they can do that.”

Mr Young said GM canola had emerged as a critical tool in parts of WA, especially in areas where there are herbicide resistance issues.

“It isn’t grown everywhere, but it is an important part of crop rotation for some growers.”

However, Bob Phelps, director of lobby group GeneEthics said there was no need to repeal the act.

“The GM Free Areas Act has been very useful, it has worked well and those who have wanted to grow GM crops have been able to, nothing has been prohibited.”

“The Act, which takes responsibility to the Parliament rather than a single Minister, is more transparent and more accountable.”

He said his group was still concerned about potential losses of market access due to GM contamination.

“There is still a strong premium for non-GM canola and growers with any GM material in their crop, for whatever reason, lose access to that premium,” Mr Phelps said.

He said Mr Chown’s shadow counterpart Darren West had told him he was told he would lose $1300 in lost premiums in a single truck load of canola due to the load being contaminated with GM material before being reimbursed.

“The facts are the premiums for non-GM are real and growers wanting to access them need to be protected.”

However, Mr Chown said there was clear majority support from the State’s agriculture sector for the repeal.

“I just don’t see why the ALP are so mad keen against the repeal bill and against GM canola,” he said.

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FarmOnline
Gregor Heard

Gregor Heard

is the national grains writer for Fairfax Agricultural Media
Date: Newest first | Oldest first

READER COMMENTS

Hebe
13/07/2016 1:25:36 PM

The vote was won on numbers alone, and certainly not on the content or quality contained in the speeches of the Liberals, Nationals and Shooters, Fishers and Farmers MLCs which (fortunately) is available for all to read in Hansard. No wonder the motion to send the Bill to Committee was voted down...they know they would be exposed as lacking in fact and depth of argument.
Fran Murrell
13/07/2016 1:55:53 PM

Why would anyone want to grow GM? It either is sprayed with a poison or produces its own. It has created superpests and superweeds and no one wants to eat it. We are told it's safe by Nobel Laureate's, none of whom were experts in agriculture or GM. Groups like the National Academy of Science's do not do independent research and receive funding from GM companies and even they have reservations about GM if you read the report carefully. The success of GM is only in the PR sphere. Meanwhile chemical-free agriculture receives no funding.
Alex
14/07/2016 2:55:41 AM

The government is not listening to consumers who are increasingly demanding GM -free and pesticide -free produce for health reasons. Informed consumers do not intentionally shop for GM or contaminated produce but they do struggle to get enough GM-free and pesticide free produce, particularly at affordable prices. The repeal of the GM Crops Free Areas Act will increase the foreseeable risk of contamination of GM-free and organic farms and drive up prices for consumers who are wary of Roundup Ready or similar herbicide tolerant GM produce and reject increasing pesticide residues in their food.
Hebe
15/07/2016 10:20:58 AM

Today's West Australian has a story saying that GM canola seed sales have fallen by 10%. If that has reached saturation point (as suggested by Monsanto MD Tony May) this only includes about 20% of canola growers, but this repeal Bill will affect all farmers, including organics. Not fair to pander to the minority.
Bob Phelps
17/07/2016 12:26:05 AM

Over 80% of WA grain growers are GM-free, & GM canola seed sales fell 10% this year. Strong demand & premium prices signal that customers want GM-free canola, so CBH has zero tolerance for any GM contamination. Farmer Protection laws are needed, to collect a levy on GM seed sales to fund automatic compensation for anyone suffering economic loss. Under OGTR & Monsanto licences, to delay weed resistance, GM seed buyers must guarantee they have no: weed resistance or excessive weeds on-farm and will not repeatedly use Roundup. Yet compliance is not enforced. WA is engaged in genetic roulette.
Boris
18/07/2016 10:53:54 AM

There is strong demand for my GM canola evidenced by the daily bids i receive. The net result is more profit from the GM system, no commercial farmer i know gives two hoots about the discount because it is meaningless economically. The anti-gmers lost the Marsh/Baxter case and that is why the evidence based Barnett Govt is repealing an outdated interventionist act.

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