Following the defeat of the Government's regulations to lift the GM crops moratorium on mainland SA, the Government quickly introduced a Bill to do the same. In his speech, Mark addressed fifteen false claims about GM crops that have been raised frequently during debate on this issue in the media, in the community and in Parliament.
Genetically Modified Crops Management (Designated Area) Amendment Bill 2019
The Greens' position on this issue is well known and I have made three contributions on this topic in recent weeks, so rather than repeat myself in relation to those previous contributions, I will confine my remarks today mostly to the task of myth busting and putting some truths and facts into this debate. That will still take some time.
During the latest push to have our genetically modified crops moratorium lifted, pro-GM advocates have made many claims, some that are true but many that are not. I will address these claims one by one. There are 15 in total.
The first claim is that segregation of genetically modified crops in the field is possible and contamination is not an issue. The truth is that segregation of GM and non-GM crops has failed in Western Australia and elsewhere. Considerable evidence was presented to that effect to a Western Australian parliamentary inquiry. I refer members to report No. 49 of the West Australian Standing Committee on Environment and Public Affairs, entitled 'Inquiry into mechanisms for compensation for economic loss to farmers in Western Australia caused by contamination by genetically modified material'.
The West Australian parliamentary inquiry acknowledged that the controversial and long-running Marsh v Baxter legal case had a chilling effect on farmers claiming compensation for economic loss resulting from contamination. As one witness pointed out:
There are serious difficulties with causation because if you have multiple sources of GM contamination, proving causation is incredibly difficult. The onus of showing that is going to fall on the GM farmer who does not have the resources that the industry has and litigation itself has an enormous chilling effect on farmers who would much rather be farming than going through costly and difficult litigation with a very well-resourced industry.
Due to the failure of segregation and the high cost of GM contamination of canola, the response has been to redefine the grain grade of non-GM so that contamination of 0.9 per cent of GM material is permitted before it loses its non-GM classification and therefore its price premium, which I will talk more about later. The average is $30 to $35 a tonne and can get to $100 a tonne in Western Australia.
Minister Whetstone's chief of staff has confirmed that this standard of 0.9 per cent GM contamination is the national and international standard; however, the point to make here is that it would not be necessary if segregation was more successful. We have heard of farmers having to secure clean GM-free canola to shandy with their own contaminated crops to get them below the 0.9 per cent contamination threshold.
In July 2019, two GM wheat varieties were discovered in a fallow field in Washington State in the USA. Neither of these varieties had ever been commercialised, but they had been evaluated in field trials in the Pacific Northwest between 1998 and 2005. In June 2018, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency reported a contamination incident in Alberta, where unapproved GM wheat was discovered.
The GM variety that was discovered had been cultivated by Monsanto in open-air field trials 15 to 20 years prior, with the nearest test plot site being over 300 kilometres away. This discovery resulted in their Japanese and Korean markets suspending their imports of Canadian wheat. So some contamination is inevitable, and the problems are real. It is long-lasting and it costs growers money.
The second claim is that there is no price premium for non-GM crops. The truth is that in places where both GM canola and non-GM canola are grown (in other words, if other variables are excluded) there is a price premium for non-GM crops. According to the state government's own data, provided in evidence to the select committee by the Chief Executive of PIRSA, Scott Ashby, non-GM canola achieves an average $30 to $35 per tonne more than GM canola in those states that allow both GM and non-GM canola to be grown.
GM advocates, on the other hand, prefer to compare South Australia's non-GM canola prices with interstate GM canola prices; however, that does not compare like with like. It does not factor in transport costs or, most importantly, the oil content of the seeds. The oil content of canola is generally lower in South Australia, so it is no surprise that, as this crop is effectively an oil seed crop, this will impact on the price that is paid. Even retired Professor Anderson's inquiry on behalf of the government found there to be a price premium. He said:
…Australia has had access to non-GM hybrid varieties that were developed partly because of the moratoria in this country. Since some of those hybrid varieties fit a no-till farming system, they have reduced the current net economic and environmental benefits of switching to a GM canola variety, as compared with the net benefits that existed back in the mid-1990s in Canada. As well, prices have been slightly lower for GM than non-GM canola varieties, yields currently are not much above the best of non-GM varieties, the technology access fee for GM seed is considered by some farmers to be high, and growers are wary of too much dependence on Roundup…
In addition to the technology access fee, the farmers of GM canola must also pay a royalty to the patent owner and are not allowed to collect the seed but instead must purchase more seed to plant for the next GM canola crop in the following year.
The third claim is that the moratorium provides no economic advantage to South Australia. Again, retired Professor Anderson's report did not even attempt to quantify the economic benefits of retaining the moratorium to keep South Australia's GM-free status. He was happy to evaluate what he saw as costs, but not the benefits. Instead, he lumped them all as 'unquantifiable'. The professor said:
One of the unquantifiable benefits of retaining the current moratorium is that it preserves the option of South Australia maintaining its GM-free status. Another is that it continues to benefit those who value that status for philosophical, ethical or spiritual reasons. Thirdly, it continues to benefit producers whose brand is enhanced by their buyers recognizing that South Australia is a GM-free zone.
In other words, all the things that might be regarded as advantages or benefits of keeping the moratorium, the good professor just said, 'Oh, well, they are unquantifiable,' and so he did not even try to count them.
This is a completely unsatisfactory response, particularly when the legislative basis for the moratorium—marketing benefits—are effectively ignored. It is this type of approach to economics that has caused many of the greatest market distortions in history. For example, in the area of climate change or pollution, the notion of externalities or costs that are borne by everyone but not by any particular legal entity has resulted in ecological collapse in many areas. It is flawed economic thinking.
The fourth claim is that the South Australia moratorium curtails research in South Australia. The truth is that research has been conducted in South Australia throughout the period of the moratorium. Genetically modified field trials approved as exemptions by the minister have been conducted through the period of the moratorium. In fact, there are currently 10 approved field crop trials in South Australia, half of which were in place prior to the Marshall Liberal government coming to office.
In the last day, the minister's office has confirmed that three new gazetted exemptions were granted in May and two more in July. These trials are being conducted by both government and private bodies and they have been accommodated within the commercial moratorium. The moratorium is not preventing research. I have a list of those trials, and they involve canola, cotton, some more canola, barley, cottonseed, wheat, barley, cotton, canola again, and Indian mustard. These are all trials that have been approved within the rules of the moratorium.
The closure of the Australian Centre for Plant Functional Genomics at Waite is often held up as a victim of the moratorium. During debate on the GM crops moratorium regulation disallowance motion last month, minister Ridgway implied as much when he said:
It is interesting that the Centre for Plant Functional Genomics at Waite has closed. I could not believe that after the work that has gone into that. The researchers there have now left because of the former Labor government's policy.
The truth is that the Australian Centre for Plant Functional Genomics Proprietary Limited is an Australian proprietary company that was set up in late 2002. The ACPFG was first funded through grants totalling $27 million from the Australian Research Council, the Grains Research and Development Corporation and the South Australian government, plus $30 million from the University of Adelaide, the University of Melbourne and the Victorian Department of Primary Industries, and the University of Queensland. It was given a second round of funding, to which the University of South Australia also contributed. I am informed that the third and last round of funding it received was from BASF, a multinational chemical company.
Although, according to the ASIC website, the ACPFG is still registered, the centre closed in 2017 when its funding ran out. I am told that it had not achieved the results that it had hoped to achieve, which is not unusual in this field of research, and that as a result of not achieving results it was not able to attract further private investment to enable it to continue. This centre operated in South Australia for 15 years, 13 of those during the period of the moratorium. The claims of the government members that the ACPFG closed due to the moratorium, like a lot of their other claims in this debate, are just plain wrong.
The fifth claim is that the science of genetically modified crops is settled. The truth is that much of the science on genetically modified crops and genetically modified food is hotly contested. It is not just one science but many. I do not doubt that scientists have the ability to genetically modify plants. Of course they can, which is why we are having this debate. No-one is doubting that science. But, similarly, we can accept the science behind the cloning of Dolly the sheep; we can accept nuclear science, which shows that we can undertake the process of nuclear fission; we can create heat, we can turn it into electricity; but accepting some of the science and accepting that it is a good idea are two very different things.
I accept nuclear science, but I think it is a very bad idea for South Australia to go down that path. I accept genetic science, but that does not mean we should embrace it in South Australia, because our decisions, in this place especially, must be based on a range of considerations, including social, economic and environmental, and in those spaces there is much difference of opinion. So saying that you believe in the laws of physics or the fact that the earth is round, or if you believe the science of climate change therefore you must support commercial GM crops in South Australia, is dishonest and ludicrous. Even within the various relevant fields of science there are vastly diverging opinions in the scientific literature.
One useful exercise for members to undertake is to follow the money and to look carefully at claims made by scientists employed or funded by the multinational chemical and biotechnology corporations. There is a wealth of scientific evidence and opinion out there from other scientists who are not funded by vested interests, and they need to be included in the debate as well.
The sixth claim is that genetically modified crops reduce chemical use and greenhouse emissions, in particular due to their enabling of no-till farming. The truth is that the development of no-till farming has been an important innovation that will reduce the impact of agriculture on climate change; however, those innovations are not the exclusive domain of GM crops. In fact, these traits were developed through conventional agricultural breeding, as even retired Professor Anderson conceded in his report to the government.
The primary attribute of the only GM crop being considered for South Australia—Roundup Ready GM canola—is that it is herbicide tolerant, specifically to the herbicide glyphosate. The costs and benefits of glyphosate are hotly contested, and many jurisdictions are ending their love affair with this chemical. I will come back to that later.
The seventh claim is that farmers want to grow GM crops. The truth is that most farmers do not want to grow GM crops. Most farmers will not grow GM crops, even if they are given the opportunity to do so. We know from those other states that have lifted the moratorium that GM crops are not popular and are not being taken up. Even those farmers who do try it usually abandon GM crops within a short period. Grain Producers SA represents 5,800 South Australian grain growers, but their 2016 petition to the previous minister for agriculture, Leon Bignell, calling for the lifting of the moratorium, had only 221 signatures. I received an email, on 4 December this year, from two South Australian farmers, which said:
We are farmers who live on the SA/Vic border and last year watched the GM prices closely, never once did they come close to the conventional GM prices, always at least $30-$50 less.
This year I noticed there aren't any prices so I rang Graincorp and was told the demand is so low for GM canola they don't have any sites in Vic with segregations for GM! GM canola has sat in their site for 2 years unable to find buyers! The segregation costs are so high and the demand so low they aren't accepting any GM at their sites in Victoria this year.
Why do we want this if Victoria who have been growing it for years aren't growing it by choice!!
Please keep our marketing edge in SA and help keep us GM free!!
There are some fairly serious claims made there, so I asked my staff if they could contact GrainCorp, which is Australia's largest bulk grain handler. My staff did so, on 5 December, to check whether what the farmer had said to us was correct. My staff were able to confirm, over the phone with Luke Thrum, a senior manager of investor relations and corporate affairs, that the claim was basically true. GrainCorp do not offer segregation for GM canola in Victoria because of the lack of demand. He also said that they only have one site in New South Wales that offers GM canola segregation. So, across both New South Wales and Victoria, GrainCorp is only offering one segregation receival site.
If you look at the GrainCorp website, there are 43 receiving sites in Victoria, plus two ports. In New South Wales, they have 91 sites, so out of 134 sites across those two states, there is only one site that offers segregation for genetically modified canola. AWB GrainFlow is another bulk handler, which has seven sites in New South Wales and Victoria that accept canola. Only one of those accepts GM canola.
So, after 12 years of allowing GM canola in those states, there is so little interest in growing it that there are only two sites that accept it. In Western Australia, I am informed, there are only two sites that accept and segregate GM canola. This begs the question: why is the government pushing this so hard? If canola is only 2 per cent of total grain production in South Australia, and if only a tiny proportion of farmers are likely to grow GM canola, why would we risk the reputation and markets of the overwhelming majority of farmers?
To paraphrase Winston Churchill's famous speech about the RAF after the Battle of Britain, never was so much risk imposed on so many by so few for so little. A number of other farmers have written to me in recent days. I do not propose to go through all of those. I thank those farmers who have written to me. I will refer to some of the observations that were made by one farmer a little later on in this contribution. What the farmers are saying to me is countering what other farmers have said through their peak bodies to the government, and that is that they do not want the moratorium lifted. They do not want to grow GM crops; they do not see any benefits in it.
I will go on to the eighth claim now. This is a claim that genetically modified crops tackle drought and climate change. The Minister for Primary Industries, Mr Tim Whetstone, in his media release dated 5 November this year headed, 'State government willing to back GM select committee recommendations', said:
South Australian farmers should have the same choices to use new and improved crop varieties to tackle drought and climate change as farmers enjoy in our neighbouring states.
The truth is that there are no GM crops available that tackle drought and climate change. The only GM crops that are approved and commercially available in Australia are, first of all, cotton, where the trait is insect resistance and herbicide tolerance; canola, which we are mainly talking about here, where the modified trait is herbicide tolerance; and safflower, which is in relation to its acid composition—and that is, I should say, approved overwhelmingly for the industrial oil market, not for human consumption. The only other two GM crops are carnations and roses, both of which have genetically modified colour.
I would like to know where these new and improved crop varieties are that will tackle drought and climate change that farmers are supposedly enjoying in neighbouring states. Where are these crops? There are four GM crop plants currently approved for limited and controlled release, which means they are approved for field trials. Only two of those are being trialled for drought tolerance, those being chickpeas and wheat.
Listed on the website of the Office of the Gene Technology Regulator are another 16 crop plant varieties that have been surrendered or withdrawn, indicating that they failed at the field trial stage. This is an extremely low success rate for genetically modified drought tolerant crop plants. Extremely low success rate might be understating it. Zero success rate is probably a better response.
Until a plant gets through field trials and is approved to be commercially available, it is an experimental crop only and it is not able to be planted in farmers' fields. It would be foolish to end a moratorium on the promise of GM drought tolerant crops that are not yet available and that, given the failure rate, may never be available.
Let's imagine now for a minute that against all the odds drought tolerant GM wheat does pass field trials and is approved for commercial release. What might happen if that was allowed to be grown in South Australia alongside our non-GM wheat? What will happen is that it will immediately come under a trade embargo. Although varieties of GM wheat have been available for years, it has never been commercially grown anywhere in the world, and any escapes of GM wheat varieties from old trial sites overseas need to be quickly eradicated.
I referred before to a recent example, from a few months back, in July this year, when two GM wheat varieties were discovered in a fallow field in Washington state in the US. Neither of these varieties had ever been commercialised, but they had been evaluated in field trials in the Pacific Northwest between 1998 and 2005. So, 14 years after the trials ended, they are still causing contamination. Once this was discovered, the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service of the United States Department of Agriculture immediately set about destroying the entire unplanted field just to ensure that all the plants were destroyed.
The US have now had to develop new testing kits for their trading partners in South Korea and Japan so that they can test for these varieties in addition to the other GM varieties that they test for. Why have they done that? The reason is: no markets want GM wheat. That is because wheat is eaten by people on a daily basis—it is in bread, cakes, pasta—and it is labelled in many countries. When Canadian farmers asked their markets whether they would accept GM wheat from Canada, they found that the international customers who buy 82 per cent of Canada's wheat crop said that they will stop buying it if Canada introduces GM wheat.
These customers have been clear: they will stop buying all wheat from us, GM and non-GM alike. This market loss issue applies to all GM wheat, not just RR wheat. That is a report by the National Farmers Union to the House of Commons Standing Committee on Agriculture and Agri-Food in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada, 2003. It is worth noting that, at the time of the report, Canadian farmers grew GM canola in significant amounts, but they recognised the importance of listening to their customers—in other words, the market—and they did not want to risk losing the non-GM market by allowing GM wheat to be grown in their country.
Just last year, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency released information about a contamination incident in Alberta. I referred to that briefly before. That was where unapproved GM wheat was discovered. The GM variety that was discovered had been cultivated by Monsanto in open-air trials 15 to 20 years previously, with the nearest test plot site being over 300 kilometres from where the contamination incident was discovered. The Canadian National Farmers Union issued a media release in response to this in June 2018, entitled 'GM wheat contamination incident a reminder of need for better regulation'. In the release, they said:
This incident is a reminder of the serious risk to market access and potential devastation of farmers' incomes that have been put in motion by the CFIA (Canadian Food Inspection Agency) when it allowed field-testing of genetically engineered crops. Back in 2004, the National Farmers Union called for an end to secret, open-air field tests of genetically engineered crops in Canada. Since 2000, the [National Farmers Union] has maintained that companies that are promoting genetically engineered crops such as Monsanto (now Bayer) must be held responsible for losses incurred by farmers as a result of contamination incidents.
As an aside, the Greens wholeheartedly agree with this. We introduced a right to damages bill—we have done that four times in this chamber since 2007—that would have done exactly that: ensure that the patent owner of the GM crop that caused contamination is responsible for losses incurred by farmers. If we go back to the Canadian National Farmers Union and the GM wheat contamination incident last year, five days after that previous media release I referred to, they issued another one stating:
The recent discovery in southern Alberta of genetically modified wheat plants with Monsanto's glyphosate resistance trait has renewed concern about the risk of GMO contamination to Canada’s wheat. Japan and Korea have suspended imports of Canadian wheat pending their own investigation of the situation.
The National Farmers Union (NFU) has called for the elimination of open-air testing of genetically modified crops since 2001. The potential impact on farmers' livelihoods and the Canadian economy that would occur if contamination resulted in permanently closed markets is an unacceptable risk.
Canada is much further down the GM road than Australia, so the concern expressed by their farmers union of the risk to export markets from GM contamination comes from a couple of decades of experience and is something that South Australia should heed.
The wheat industry in Australia is worth $7.1 billion per year as a five-year average, and the value of wheat exported from Australia is about $5 billion per year. If the GM wheat that is being trialled in Australia passes its field trials, if it becomes approved for commercial release and is introduced into Australia, it would risk important markets in an industry that, as I have said, is worth $5 billion a year on an export basis alone. The Greens, along with many others, know that this is not worth the risk.
The ninth claim is that solutions to climate change and drought lie in GM technology. The truth is that, if we refer to a 2014 publication entitled, 'GMO Myths and Truths: An evidence-based examination of the claims made for the safety and efficacy of genetically modified crops and foods,' a publication by Dr John Fagan PhD, Michael Antoniou PhD and Claire Robinson MPhil, they say:
Climate change is often used as a reason to claim that we need GM crops. But the evidence suggests that the solutions to climate change do not lie in GM. This is because tolerance to extreme weather conditions such as drought and flooding—and resistance to the pests and diseases that often accompany them—are complex traits. That means they are the product of many genes working together in ways we do not yet fully understand. Such complex genetic traits cannot be delivered through GM.
Where a GM crop is claimed to possess complex traits, they have generally been achieved through conventional breeding, not GM. After the complex trait is developed through conventional breeding, simple GM traits such as pest resistance or herbicide tolerance are added to the conventionally bred crop to represent the 'inventive step' necessary to enable the GMO developer company to patent it.
While the resulting crop is often claimed as a GM success, this is untrue. It is a success of conventional breeding with added GM traits. The GM traits do not contribute to the agronomic performance of the crop but make the crop the property of the GMO company and (in the case of herbicide tolerance) keep farmers dependent on chemical inputs sold by the same company.
The 10th claim made is that the government's independent review by retired Professor Kym Anderson is independent and therefore its findings are all valid. This claim has been strongly contested by many, including Dr John Paull, an environmental scientist at the School of Land and Food at the University of Tasmania.
He submitted a review of Professor Anderson's review. Paull's work was entitled, 'A Review of the Independent Review of the South Australian GM Food Crop Moratorium and 14 Alternative Findings'. He provided that to the government during its consultation back in March this year. In his 19-page review he documented 14 findings. His first finding was as follows:
Finding 1: The independent review is not independent at all. The independent review is written by a vocal and long-term advocate of GMOs and GM-crops, and in addition it contains errors of fact from the outset (see Finding 2) and it should be disregarded in its entirety.
Dr Paull cited at least four previous publications between 2001 and 2004 by Kym Anderson, where his opinions on GM crops were evident. Because I appreciate the seriousness of a claim when you are suggesting that something is not independent, I need to put a bit more information on the record. I will just read the abstract of Dr John Paull's report from March 2019. He says:
The present review of the 'Independent Review of the South Australian GM Food Crop Moratorium' (Anderson, 2019) reveals that the so-called independent review is not independent at all and thus it falls at the first hurdle. Kym Anderson is a long term vocal advocate of genetically modified crops and has expressed such views regularly over the past two decades. The Independent Review was commissioned by the South Australian Minister for Primary Industries and Regional Development. There were 216 public submissions, of these, 78% [or 168] were for retaining the existing Moratorium, 18% [or 39 submissions] were for scrapping the Moratorium, and 4% [or 8 people] were undecided. 100% of the food available in Australian supermarkets is GM-free which mirrors the sentiments of Australian consumers, which are against GM-food; and Australian supermarkets are all aware of such sentiments. South Australia (SA) has a 'clean and green' image. This image serves SA well for food production, trade, tourism, education and migration. GMOs would damage SA's clean and green and smart image and can thereby be economically detrimental to the state. The Independent Review proposes that GM canola is the sole candidate for uptake were the GM Moratorium to be scrapped. The GM canolas (Round-up ready…) proposed for SA are herbicide-dependent crops relying on regimes of multiple toxic herbicide applications. Glyphosate is a carcinogen and triazine is banned in Europe. These are chemicals that are dangerous to the health and wellbeing of animals, including humans, and the environment, and prescribing their use can be expected to increase SA's health costs and future environmental clean-up costs. GM agriculture is an example of privatising the profits and socialising the costs. Australia is the world leader in organic agriculture and accounts for 51% of the world's certified organic hectares, and, of this, South Australia is the leading organic state in Australia accounting for 40% of Australia's certified organic hectares (and 20% of the world's certified organic hectares). Organic produce sells at a price premium—usually in the range of 10% and 110% (compared to non-organic). This contrasts with GM canola which sells at a price penalty of 7%. These price premiums and price penalties reflect market sentiment—what the market wants and what the market does not want. The GM Moratorium has a social licence and is serving SA well and should be maintained on economic and social grounds. The Independent Review should be rejected.
Claim No. 11 I have referred to before: that the majority of submissions to the Anderson independent inquiry supported lifting of the GM moratorium. As I said, there were 216 public submissions and 78 per cent were for retaining the moratorium.
The 12th claim—and again it comes out of what Dr John Paull wrote—is that there is a market for GM foods. The truth is there is no demand for genetically modified foods. In a 2017 study by international consultants and analysts GfK, which stands for Growth from Knowledge, they surveyed 23,000 consumers in 17 countries. Nearly half of the consumers reported that 'free from GMO ingredients' are very or extremely important factors when deciding which food or beverage product to eat or drink, with Chinese participants ranked at 60 per cent. Dr Paull states:
As a consequence, there are economic price penalties for GM crops and for growing what consumers do not want.
Claim 13 is that GM crops are good for the South Australian agriculture industry. The truth is that GM crops threaten the organic agriculture industry. As I said, organic agriculture in Australia is a growing sector: it is growing at 22 per cent per annum. South Australia leads the country in organic agriculture: 40 per cent of Australia's certified organic hectares is located in South Australia. This is a great agricultural and economic success story. Allowing GMOs to put organics at risk for the sake of something that global consumers do not want would be economically stupid, given that there is a price premium for organic produce and an economic penalty for GMO produce.
The 14th claim is that farmers have complete control over how they grow their GM crops. The truth is that when farmers choose to grow GM canola they enter into a contract with the patent owner which they must strictly adhere to. Under the 'Roundup Ready canola grower license and stewardship agreement' that farmers are required to sign, the farmers do not own the seed that they purchase, they do not control how they manage their crop and they cannot save the seeds for the following year's planting.
The farmers of GM canola are told when Roundup must be sprayed. For example, one condition is that the first spray is when the plant has between two and six leaves. I do not propose to go into a full, detailed analysis of the merits or otherwise of glyphosate, but I will just remind members that glyphosate is banned in many countries. It is widely suspected to be linked to cancer and was formally declared to be a known carcinogen by the California Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment.
Glyphosate does not stay on the farm. It contaminates water, air, soil, plants and animals. It is ingested by adults and children via various routes, including via food and beverages. Far from being a benign miracle chemical, glyphosate has serious questions to answer. But the users (the growers) of Roundup Ready canola do not just require glyphosate, they also require the use of another herbicide, which is Spray.Seed 250, and they need to use that in between crops. I am told that most farmers do not do it because it causes nosebleeds.
What is Spray.Seed 250? Spray.Seed 250 is a non-selective contact herbicide that is used for weed control prior to sowing broadacre crops. It is produced by Syngenta. It contains diquat and paraquat, and it comes with a warning that it is toxic and can cause death. In fact, there was a tragic case, a very sad case, of a Queensland man who died in 2012 when he was filling his pressure backpack pump spray with paraquat, and the backpack unit cracked. Some chemical sprayed over him and onto his face. You only have to ingest a very small amount of it to be deadly—and he died. It has also been linked to Parkinson's disease, with Parkinson's Australia saying that there is growing evidence about its harmful effects.
Paraquat has been banned in 32 countries. It has been banned in Europe for over a decade. Last month, it was reported that Thailand is also planning to ban it, along with glyphosate, which has already been banned in Vietnam and Austria. Diquat approval in the European Union was withdrawn in July 2018, so it is now banned as well. I can understand why farmers do not want to use this product. Instead, many farmers spray the Roundup Ready formula again, which in turn impacts on the growing problem of glyphosate resistance amongst weeds. It is similar to the problem of antibiotic resistance in medicine.
The 15th claim is that the Greens' 2007 bill, which entrenched the moratorium in legislation, was rushed through parliament in the last week of the year before the election. The truth is that the Genetically Modified Crops Management Regulations (Postponement of Expiry) Bill 2017 was introduced into the Legislative Council on 18 October 2017. One month later—on 15 November 2017—it was debated and passed in this house. It was then introduced into the House of Assembly, on 16 November 2017 and listed on their Notice Paper for two weeks before it was debated and passed on 28 November 2017. That is a time frame of six weeks, so the claim of rushing that bill through in the last sitting week is absolute rubbish. Compared with the present bill, which we did not even see until last week, the progress of the 2017 bill was entirely within the established protocols of both chambers of this parliament.
I now put one question for the minister to respond to in the second reading. I appreciate the briefing that we had from minister Whetstone's chief of staff, but one question that was not answered satisfactorily was whether the Marshall Liberal government, including any member of the government and/or PIRSA or SARDI, had any discussions about or received any offers of funding for plant breeding research from any agrochemical companies or any related crop science organisations that they fund? That is the question. As I said before, we are keen to follow the money. I want to know whether any discussion has been held or has any offer been made?
In the answer that was provided, the question was reframed as: 'Has PIRSA/SARDI received any offer to undertake research and development of GM varieties if the GM moratorium is lifted on the South Australian mainland?' PIRSA has advised the answer is no. That was not the question I asked. I would like the minister to answer the question I did ask.
Just by way of conclusion, we heard on radio this morning the Leader of the Opposition, Mr Peter Malinauskas, talking about the bill and the Labor Party's position on it. He was speaking with Ali Clarke and David Bevan just before 9 o'clock this morning on ABC radio Adelaide. The Leader of the Opposition was suggesting that we need more time to allow regions, other than Kangaroo Island, to consider whether they want to remain GM free.
Whilst the Greens' position is clear that we believe the moratorium should apply to the whole state, we appreciate that postponing the final decision until amendments can be drafted is the second best option. So if the bill is not defeated today at the second reading, we will support any motion to further adjourn debate until next year to enable the consultation referred to by the Leader of the Opposition to take place.
Finally, I would like to thank everyone who has written to me in relation to this issue. There are many dozens of people in recent days especially who have emailed and phoned. They have provided advice and information, all of which I think adds value to the debate that we are having. I would particularly like to thank Judy Carman, whom I have referred to before in previous debates, as well as Julie Newman, a farmer who has provided a great deal of information. I have not put all of it on the public record, but my contribution today, together with the contributions I have made previously, cover most of the issues that she raised.
I will just leave members with this final point. Once the genie is out of the bottle, you cannot put it back in. If this house decides today to support the lifting of the GM crops moratorium on mainland South Australia, it will be a decision that cannot be reversed. My point is: be very careful what you wish for.