WESTERN Australia’s parliament last night repealed legislation and removed a barrier to WA’s grain growers from accessing genetically modified crops approved by the national regulator.
Agriculture and Food Minister, Mark Lewis, said the parliament passed the Genetically Modified Crops Free Areas Repeal Bill 2015.
“It repeals outdated legislation from 2004 that designated all of Western Australia as an area where GM crops could not be grown, except by exemption order. Exemptions were granted for commercial cultivation of GM cotton in the Ord River irrigation area and GM canola in WA,” he said.
“This will give certainty to our farmers and investors, reduce red tape and provide access to new opportunities and tools for grain growers to be innovative.
“GM technology is a transformative technology, enabling major improvements in pest and disease resistance, crop productivity and adaption to differing growing conditions.
“It is essential when we are presented with these new and approved technologies to produce higher yielding crops, that we don’t delay in embracing them. We don’t want to see our valuable agriculture sector lose out to other Australian States, not to mention our international competitors.”
The Minister said the Liberal National Government had a range of strategies to significantly boost agricultural production, and take advantage of increasing demand from new and existing markets.
“In the face of tough global markets and even tougher weather conditions, we need to give our farmers a better chance to compete on a level playing field in these valuable markets by allowing them to use approved GM technologies,” he said.
“We now have strong overseas markets for our GM crops and this decision augurs well for our future.”
The initial legislation was a conservative approach designed to give Western Australia time to develop protocols and systems to manage and segregate non-GM from GM crops, and protect the State’s agricultural reputation.
However, the Minister said it was now an unnecessary barrier, preventing WA growers from accessing new GM crops approved by the Gene Technology Regulator until an exemption order was approved.
WAFarmers grains section president, Duncan Young, said the repeal of the GM Free Areas Bill was a significant win for the industry.
“We are pleased this issue was resolved before government headed into caretaker mode in preparation for the State Election in March, and that other pressing agricultural issues can be the focus moving into the election period,” he said.
“The passing of the Bill not only gives certainty to farmers and researchers, but provides new opportunities in innovation in crops in the future.
“It is the culmination of lots of hard work by industry to give growers choice.
“WAFarmers, PGA and CropLife Australia have worked collaboratively to progress the repeal of the moratorium in WA, and we see the repeal as a significant step forward for agriculture in this state.”
Earlier this month, Mr Young expressed concern that the slow progress of the Bill through Parliament was creating uncertainty for planning in the 2017 season.
“WAFarmers has always supported giving growers the choice to grow GM crops, and with the passing of the Bill, they can now make that choice as to whether the use of genetically modified cultivars is an option they want to pursue,” he said.
“Continued research to help find solutions to ongoing problems such as frost, salinity and drought will be enhanced by having this Bill repealed, giving certainty to farmers and researchers.
“The future of grain growing in Western Australia looks very exciting, and we look forward to seeing how the passing of the Bill will affect the future of grain growing in WA over the coming years.”
- GM canola makes up 30 per cent of WA’s total canola plantings, showing grower demand for this technology
- Since 2010, Europe has imported more than four million tonnes of GM canola from WA
- In Australia, almost 100 pc of cotton produced is GM, offering significant cost savings and environmental gains from reduced insecticide use
Source: WA Minister for Agriculture and Food and WAFarmers