QUESTION: South Australian food businesses and GM crops

In Question Time, Mark asked the Minister for Trade and Investment if he had met with representatives of South Australian food producers who market their products as GMO free, to discuss their concerns over GM crops and the impact of lifting the moratorium on their domestic and export markets.


The Hon. M.C. PARNELL: When the Government Gazette came out just over an hour ago it again contained regulations to lift the moratorium on the growing of genetically modified crops on mainland South Australia. This is less than 24 hours after the Legislative Council disallowed the same regulations and the third time identical regulations have been introduced in the last four months.

Also yesterday, a group of South Australia's most prominent and iconic food producers called on the Government not to go down the path of allowing genetically modified crops to be grown in South Australia. These companies included Tuckers Natural, Maggie Beer, Paris Creek Farms, San Remo and Jonny's Popcorn. A quick look at the labels and websites of these South Australian food producers shows that they market their products as GMO free.

My questions are:

1. Does the Minister agree that reintroducing disallowed regulations within 24 hours is treating the Legislative Council with contempt?

2. Why didn't the Government have the guts to table these regulations today in Parliament, or is the Government that scared of another disallowance motion?

3. Has the Minister met with representatives of South Australian food producers Tuckers Natural, Maggie Beer, Paris Creek Farms, San Remo or Jonny's Popcorn to discuss their legitimate concerns over GM crops and the impact of lifting the moratorium on their domestic and export markets?

4. Why on earth would the Minister for Trade and Investment want to throw these South Australian food producers under a bus and risk their marketing and business advantage by opening up South Australia to GM crops and the inevitable contamination this would bring?

The Hon. D.W. RIDGWAY (Minister for Trade and Investment): I thank the honourable member for his question and his ongoing interest in the GM debate. As members would be well aware, we had extensive consultation last year. I am not entirely familiar with the number of people who were consulted, but I am certain that the food sector would have been consulted.

I don't believe we have held the Legislative Council in contempt. I made it very clear during all the debates, and the minister has publicly, that if the regulations were disallowed we would be reintroducing them to give farmers certainty. So I don't believe that is holding them in contempt.

I have met with a number of those food producers a number of times. I know that San Remo had expressed some concern some time ago. I think I am actually meeting with some of the San Remo people over the next few days, so I will raise that with them. I'm sure they will raise it with me if it's a concern of theirs at the moment.

I know Jonny from Jonny's Popcorn particularly well. He was at FOODEX in Japan last year. I'm not sure—I will have to check with my colleague the Hon. Tim Whetstone—how much actual maize or corn that we use for popcorn is grown in South Australia. From my recollection I don't think very much, if any, of the corn that Jonny pops in Jonny's Popcorn is actually grown in South Australia.