SELECT COMMITTEE: Inquiry into GM crops moratorium

The Greens today supported the establishment of a Select Committee to inquire into the moratorium on the cultivation of genetically modified (GM) crops in South Australia.

The terms of reference are set out below.

Motion of Hon. J.A. Darley:

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.

The Hon. M.C. PARNELL: Last year, my Greens bill to extend the moratorium on cultivating genetically-modified crops in South Australia passed this parliament. As a result the moratorium that was previously secured via government regulations is now in legislation and will not expire until September 2025. I was pleased to secure this legislation for South Australia with the support of the then Labor government and Advance SA's the Hon. John Darley. Without this legislation the moratorium would have automatically expired on 1 September 2019. Now any decision to lift the moratorium before 1 September 2025 will require the support of both houses of parliament.

This was an important decision for a few reasons. First, extending the moratorium and keeping South Australia GM-free is good policy; it is Greens policy. Secondly, the Greens have a strong preference for policy decisions to be written into legislation and not left to the discretion of the government of the day to put them into regulations or, indeed, to merely make an announcement—as we have seen recently with the Liberal government's position on a moratorium on fracking in our state's South-East.

Lastly, this was an important decision as we had concerns that, if the Liberal Party won the March 2018 state election, a Liberal state government may well have let the moratorium lapse in September next year. Given their strenuous objection and opposition to my bill last year, that looked like a distinct possibility.

I mentioned that my bill last year received the support of the Labor government—in particular, the former minister for agriculture, food and fisheries the Hon. Leon Bignell—as well as the support of the Hon. John Darley. At the time the Hon. John Darley expressed his view that the matter of the moratorium needed further investigation and that he intended to refer it to be investigated by a parliamentary committee this year. I gave a commitment, during debate on the bill, to support such an inquiry and today I am pleased to indicate that the Greens will be supporting the Hon. John Darley's motion to establish a select committee of the Legislative Council to undertake this important inquiry.