EXPERT REACTION: SA to lift ban on GM crops

Embargoed until: Publicly released:
The South Australian government has announced it will lift the moratorium on growing GM Food Crops in all parts of mainland South Australia. However, the moratorium will remain on Kangaroo Island. There will now be a six-week consultation period on the proposed amendment to the regulations. The draft regulations would include variations to allow this change and come into operation on 1 December 2019.

Organisation/s: The University of Adelaide, University of the Sunshine Coast

Expert Reaction

These comments have been collated by the Science Media Centre to provide a variety of expert perspectives on this issue. Feel free to use these quotes in your stories. Views expressed are the personal opinions of the experts named. They do not represent the views of the SMC or any other organisation unless specifically stated.

Associate Professor Matthew Tucker is an ARC Future Fellow at the University of Adelaide

Lifting the moratorium will provide a much-needed boost to SA growers, researchers and agriculture-related industries.
It will provide growers with access to technologies that have been available interstate and internationally for over 10 years. SA growers will be able to use GM technology as part of a broad toolkit. It’s a bit like a workshop or kitchen where you need multiple tools or utensils; you don’t use the same tool all the time, but when you need access to it then it’s available.
The clear benefits of this technology will be seen in countering the effects of climate change and delivering a superior, sustainable and healthier product for consumers.
It will also stimulate further research and investment in the GM space for our Universities, providing opportunities for new jobs and new discoveries. Until now, testing GM crops that might benefit SA growers has been carried out interstate. Lifting the moratorium will provide an opportunity to safely test and develop new crop varieties in SA under local conditions, also ensuring the economic benefits remain in our state.

Last updated: 20 Aug 2019 12:45pm
Declared conflicts of interest:
None declared.
Dr Rachel Ankeny is Team Leader in the Food Values Research Group, Faculty of Arts at the University of Adelaide

As our social science-based research has documented, various members of our broader community have diverse views on whether genetic modification technologies should be used, and unsurprisingly there often are conflicts in the values underlying these views.

People’s values associated with GM research and commercial release reflect different understandings of what makes good food, but also considerations about economics and the environment, as well as concerns about who benefits.

The recent SA government proposal should be used as a lever to encourage continued engagement of the public as well as those likely to be most directly affected such as SA farmers about these issues in order to devise thoughtful policy that is likely to be perceived as legitimate and effective by different stakeholders.

Last updated: 20 Aug 2019 12:44pm
Declared conflicts of interest:
Rachel has declared the following potential conflicts of interest: current member of the GM Crop Advisory Committee for the Government of South Australia; past funding received from Grain Growers Australia and the Australian Research Council for research relating to GM; past member of the Commonwealth Office of the Gene Technology Regulator's Gene Ethics and Community Consultative Committee
Dr Glenn Tong is the Principal and Director of BiotechSmarts Pty Ltd, a company that provides strategic advice to biotechnology companies

I was the CEO of the Molecular Plant Breeding Cooperative Research Centre from 2006 to 2010. We ran major R&D programs in GM wheat and pastures.

The SA' Government's decision to remove the GM crop ban is based on good science and robust rational decision making which will benefit both farmers and the Australian economy. 

This is a big step forward for South Australia and they are to be congratulated for making this move.

Last updated: 20 Aug 2019 12:43pm
Declared conflicts of interest:
None declared.
Professor Jay Sanderson is the Head of the School of Law and Criminology at the University of the Sunshine Coast. He holds degrees in law, psychology and science and specialises in law around agriculture and food

The proposed lifting of the GM moratorium brings South Australia in line with other States that allow GM crop production including Victoria and Queensland.

Importantly, though, GM foods are also regulated by Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) which means any GM food would need to meet criteria around safety and labelling before it is available for human consumption.

GM foods are assessed on a case-by-case basis, and there are already GM foods approved in Australia including for crops such as corn, potato and canola. 
There are also regulations in place to reduce the unintentional mixing of GM and non-GM crops (e.g. clear separation of fields with GM crops and non-GM crops).

Last updated: 20 Aug 2019 12:41pm
Declared conflicts of interest:
None declared.

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