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Genetically Modified Crops Motion

The Hon. J.A. DARLEY (16:24): I move:

1. That a select committee of the Legislative Council be established to inquire into and report on the moratorium on the cultivation of genetically modified (GM) crops in South Australia, with specific reference to—

(a) the benefits and costs of South Australia being GM-free for the state, its industries and people;

(b) the effect of the moratorium on marketing South Australian products both nationally and internationally including:

(i) costs and benefits to South Australian industries and markets of remaining GM-free;

(ii) costs and benefits to South Australian industries and markets from lifting the moratorium on cultivating GM crops in South Australia;

(iii) current or potential reputational impacts, both positive and negative, on other South Australian food and wine producers, that may result from retaining or lifting the moratorium;

(iv) consideration of global trends and consumer demands for GM crops/foods versus non-GM crops/foods;

(c) the difference between GM and non-GM crops in relation to yield, chemical use and other agricultural and environmental factors;

(d) any long term environmental effects of growing GM crops including soil health;

(e) the potential for contamination of non-GM or organic crops by GM crops, including:

(i) consideration of matters relating to the segregation of GM and non-GM crops in the paddock, in storage and during transportation;

(ii) the potential impacts of crop contamination on non-GM and organic farmers;

(iii) consideration of GM contamination cases interstate and internationally; and

(f) any other matters that the committee considers relevant.

2. That standing order 389 be so far suspended as to enable the chairperson of the committee to have a deliberative vote only.

3. That this council permits the select committee to authorise the disclosure or publication, as it sees fit, of any evidence or documents presented to the committee prior to such evidence being presented to the council.

4. That standing order 396 be suspended to enable strangers to be admitted when the select committee is examining witnesses unless the committee otherwise resolves, but they shall be excluded when the committee is deliberating.

I move this motion today to fulfil a commitment that I made last year before the parliament prorogued for the election. At the time, the Hon. Mark Parnell had introduced a bill to extend the moratorium South Australia has in place against genetically modified crops and to put the moratorium into legislation. Prior to this, the moratorium was only in place through regulation and there was some concern that this could be removed at the whim of the government.

The Hon. Mark Parnell's amendment bill effectively meant that the moratorium could not be lifted unless it was the will of the parliament. During the debate on this bill, a number of issues concerned me and I undertook to introduce a motion to establish a select committee to have a look at the issue closer so that we can make an educated decision when this matter arises in the future.

I understand the moratorium which stands is only there for marketing purposes. That is to say that if it is deemed that South Australia has an advantage by being able to market ourselves as being GM-free, then the moratorium should stay. I spoke to some local South Australian businesses at the time which indicated that they had no doubt that they had an incredible marketing advantage by being able to say to the world that not only is their product GM-free but it is from a state which is entirely GM-free.

However, a number of other issues arose during the debate of the Hon. Mark Parnell's bill. These included grain storage and contamination issues, claims of health effects of consuming genetically modified crops, international trends towards GM crops, advantages or disadvantages to crop yield, cost of growing GM crops versus non-GM crops, difference in grain prices for GM and non-GM products, and whether our farmers were missing out on agricultural technology by not being able to grow GM crops.

Whilst many people seem to have an opinion on some or all of the above, few people were able to provide evidence to support their argument. I conducted what research I could; however, this is a very involved issue and I do not imagine that I was the only one who faced these problems. As such, I indicated that I would be moving to establish a select committee to investigate this issue further, and that is what I am doing today.

By doing this, if it became apparent that the moratorium is serving no purpose, we can make an amendment to the act and remove the moratorium. Everyone in this place wants to do what is best for the community but it is important that we have the correct information on which to base our decisions. I want to thank the Hon. Mark Parnell for bringing this issue to the forefront of our minds, and also to his chief of staff, Cate Mussared, who has greatly assisted not only in the bill but with this motion, too.

Debate adjourned on motion of Hon. D.G.E. Hood.