Genetically Modified Crops Management Amendment Bill

Final Stages

The Legislative Council agreed to the bill with the amendments indicated by the following schedule, to which amendments the Legislative Council desires the concurrence of the House of Assembly:

No. 1. Clause 5, page 3, lines 15 to 19 [clause 5, inserted subsection (1a)]—Delete inserted subsection (1a)

No. 2. Clause 6, page 4, lines 9 to 13 [clause 6, inserted section 5A(8)]—Delete subsection (8)

No. 3. Clause 7, page 4, line 33 [clause 7(2)]—Delete subclause (2)

Consideration in committee.

Mr TRELOAR: I rise to make a contribution today to this committee and, as I always do when discussing this, I declare my interest that for 30 years I was an active grain grower and still have an interest in a grain growing property on Eyre Peninsula. I have been following this debate very closely for 20 years, and I am particularly pleased that we have reached this point today.

The Hon. A. Koutsantonis: What took you so long, mate?

Mr TRELOAR: Thank you, member for West Torrens. We are finally here. It was not for lack of trying, member for West Torrens. In fact, I do not disagree with the member for Giles that way back in 2004 it was reasonable to be cautious about such new technology; however, I was involved with the farmers’ federation grains council come 2008 when the recommendation to government at the time very much was to lift the moratorium. The Labor government at that time chose not to, and I would say to the disappointment of the vast majority of broadacre farmers in South Australia.

So here we are 12 years on and I, too, join others in congratulating those who have been involved in getting us to this point. It is not a perfect solution, it is not perfect legislation, but now at least we are able to give our broadacre grain growers the opportunity to grow genetically engineered crops. There is another term, member for Giles. If GM is not so palatable, GE is one that can be more so.

I have been of the view that we have been at a disadvantage in this state, despite the fact that the loudest voices were talking about a price premium available to grain producers in South Australia. That was not necessarily proven to me to a point where I felt it necessary to protect the entire state for that reason because, as I said during this debate when it was first introduced into this place, profitability for a grain grower who is in business comes as a combination of yield times, price achieved, less the cost of production.

The member for Giles again talked about the capacity needed by our broadacre farmers to run a business, sometimes in challenging conditions, with very fine margins and at great risk. They do their sums. That is the formula that has to work for them, so this gives them those opportunities. Obviously here in South Australia we are talking very much about GM canola right at this point in time, but opportunities will open up for other crops as we go forward, depending on consumer sentiment, of course. As producers, we need to listen to that as well but, just at the moment, I think there is further opportunity for canola.

At the moment there is an opportunity to sow glyphosate-resistant canola, which lowers the use of chemicals in a canola paddock, reduces the cost of chemical inputs for a farmer and has a real advantage in timeliness for sowing. We are also very close to having the ability to insert omega-3 into our canola, which we all know has multiple health benefits for us as humans if we ingest that. One of the prime sources of omega-3 in the human diet at the moment is through seafood. That is not always an option for people. It is sometimes expensive and sometimes not available, so to have omega-3 available in our diets through a simple additive to such things as margarine or canola oil will be a real benefit—and there will be other functional foods that come along as this technology develops. I am pleased that we are here today and are finally able to talk about lifting the GM moratorium. There will be environmental benefits, there will be health benefits, there will be benefits to our whole of landscape and, ultimately, there will be functional foods available to us as consumers.

We do need to remember that, as broadacre grain producers, we actually compete against the rest of the world. We export a commodity. It is all very well to talk about niche markets, but those things are very hard to achieve when you are talking about wheat, barley or canola. Kangaroo Island Pure Grain have identified themselves into a niche market, but for the vast majority we are competing head-to-head with the Canadians, with the Americans, with the Europeans and with the Argentinians, so we have to once again use that formula and ensure that our grain growers are profitable so we can compete on the world market, in a commodity market.

Kangaroo Island has retained its moratorium; that is their choice at the moment. We have agreed to continue with that. It will be interesting to hear the discussion on Kangaroo Island and throughout the rest of the state in years to come as this technology progresses, not just genetic modification but also gene editing, which is an exciting new technology that is not quite GM but involves the tweaking of individual genes. It is really exciting and I think absolutely we need to be a part of this.

For 150 years, South Australia has led the way in many areas in dryland agriculture; we have exported our technology, and I feel that in recent years that advantage has slipped. I am pleased that we have been able to agree to the amendments that have come back from the Legislative Council, and I look forward to giving our growers the opportunity that they deserve.

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