WAFarmers press minister on GM act repeal

29 Jul, 2015 01:00 AM
WAFarmers Grains Council president Duncan Young (left), Agriculture and Food Minister Ken Baston and WAFarmers Grains Council vice president Michael Fels following an information session last week.
WA has the fastest growing GM areas in Australia, so it's not a piece of legislation we need
WAFarmers Grains Council president Duncan Young (left), Agriculture and Food Minister Ken Baston and WAFarmers Grains Council vice president Michael Fels following an information session last week.

THE WAFarmers Grains Council used a meeting with Agriculture and Food Minister Ken Baston last week to highlight the urgency of repealing the WA GM Crop Free Areas Act before the next election.

Council members are worried the next election will come around before the legislation is removed and are mindful that if elected, a Labor government would ban genetically modified (GM) crops from being grown in WA.

WAFarmers Grains Council president Duncan Young said there was no need for WA-specific legislation addressing GM crops as the national Office of Gene Technology Regulator held this role.

"The act was only ever put in by the Labor Party in the case that there was no market for the product," Mr Young said.

"Now it's quite evident that there's a market for it, it is a very well used technology particularly in WA.

"WA has the fastest growing GM areas in Australia, so quite rightly it's not a piece of legislation that we need anymore.

"It's not up to the State to determine whether something should be right or wrong at the whim of the minister."

Mr Young said the meeting was able to communicate its support for repealing the Act, a move Mr Baston has previously highlighted as something he has plans to do while in the portfolio.

"We were encouraging him to do it sooner rather than later," he said.

"Our biggest worry is that it won't be passed before the government goes to an election.

"As far as I understand the timeline will be before the next election."

The council also discussed transport issues and the future sale of WA ports during the meeting.

Mr Young said the discussion centred on transport including road and rail.

"We talked about more than rail, we talked also about the road network and the need for the government to have a clear plan into the future of what the transport network is going to look like in our State," he said.

"I think its too easy to fall into rail, it's the whole of the transport sector.

"Grain on road is always going to happen and I think really we made it very clear to the Minister that it's a whole of transport industry vision we need to see from government as to where it's going to go in the future.

"At the moment there is no vision and we're very worried about that."

Talk also centred on the future of the Department of Agriculture and Food (DAFWA) in the wake of recently announced funding cuts.

Mr Young said while there was no real outcome on this topic yet, it was an opportunity for his council to raise concern about the future of agriculture without a strong department acting in the research and development space.

"The government hasn't spelt out what they're going to do with the money that will be left," he said.

"I'd like to see what they're going to propose as there's a lot of rumours but until they propose something it's very hard for us to know our future.

"It would be nice to have more money, but there's no point wasting the money we do have so we'd like to see good bang for our buck.

"We don't want to see the ag department end up being just an overseer of regulatory requirements and that's it.

"But that is how it's heading at the moment."

Mr Young said it was important for WAFarmers to maintain open lines of communication with Mr Baston on a whole range of matters beyond those discussed in last week's meeting.

He said he would work to continue updating members as he received information.

"We were very happy that the Minister made time to come and meet with our grains council, we thought it was quite a good and productive meeting and we would hope that our dialogue with government continues to be fruitful," he said.

"The GM crop free areas topic remains high on our list, as does the formation of a national peak body for the grains industry."

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Rachael Oxborrow

Rachael Oxborrow

is grains writer for Farm Weekly


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Um er here's the bleeding obvious,regulation worked pretty well ay
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GM labels were never about safety but about the right for us to know what is in our food. People
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Livestock and cropping have always reduce the income risk for farming. My understanding having