The Australian Oilseeds Federation says South Australian farmers deserve freedom of choice on Genetically Modified (GM) crops after that state’s premier announced he would continue a statewide GM ban from 2019.
Oilseeds executive director Nick Goddard said South Australia did not enjoy a commercial advantage because it had declared itself GM free.
He said GM canola was grown in all other states without any affect to non GM crops, with stringent separation of both types of seed all the way from the farm to the processor.
South Australian premier Jay Weatherill told the ABC on the weekend that he would continue the moratorium on all GM crops in South Australia beyond the present timeline of 2019.
"The truth is there are not a lot of votes out there in country South Australia for us, so in some ways we are free of the electoral imperatives about this," Mr Weatherill said.
"We are trying to do what's right, rather than what is popular.
"We are committed to maintaining our GM-free status. It is a point of difference that allows us to represent our produce to the world as being grown in a GM-free state."
Mr Goddard said there was plenty of evidence to show after six years of GM cropping in other states that there were considerable benefits to farmers from GM technology. GM canola needed less herbicide and also reduced greenhouse emissions on farm. “There are clear and demonstrable benefits with GM canola,” he said.
He acknowledged that some non-GM canola attracted a higher premium in Western Australia from time to time, but in other states there was not much difference in price. GM canola was suited in WA because of the cropping system. About 30 per cent of canola in WA was GM. In the eastern states of Victoria and NSW, GM canola was between 15 and 20 per cent of the total canola crop.
“South Australian farmers are entitled to have freedom of choice as to what technology they need on their farm,” Mr Goddard said.
“They find they are being disadvantaged and we are hearing it from all the grower groups in that state.
“They face a higher cost of production than WA, Victoria or NSW.
“They are denied that freedom of choice and that is unfortunate.”
He said GM and non-GM products were segregated all the way though to the end user. In WA, GM crops were more entrenched in the system while in the eastern states GM canola crops were used more “tacticallly” in crop rotation and other crop production.