GM decision

The rejection of 11 councils’ bids to remain GM-free will be a blow to dozens of local businesses.
It will always be difficult to balance opposing industry needs, and while sectors such as the wine industry feared lifting the ban would cost millions in brand damage and other unforseen impacts, others, including the apple and pear and the grain growers generally supported lifting the moratorium.
In a State whose diversity ranges from broadacre cropping and stock raising to wine production and fruit growing it is impossible to please everyone.
But in this case it seems the State Government has backed the calls of large-scale farmers to the possible detriment of the State’s niche markets.
Ten of the 11 councils which applied for exemptions were in or around the Mt Lofty ranges, forming a single conjoined band around Adelaide.
It would have been possible to draw a boundary around those councils and still allow the broadacre cropping regions to grow GM crops while offering some protection to the wine industry.
Such a staged approach would have allowed any impacts on the growing organic wine industry to be explored in more depth.
Extending the moratorium in a defined area would not preclude those crops from ever being grown there, if the risks were deemed low once the impact was more fully understood.
With only three GM crops licensed to be grown in Australia (canola, cotton and safflower), there is still a lot of uncertainty around the impact the introduction of additional GM crops may have on trade and market value.
In light of that uncertainty, many industries struggled to find clear data defining the economic impact that lifting the ban would have on their product as was required by the Government in this latest assessment.
But despite that, each region was clear that there would be an impact.
And yet, every application was rejected.
It begs the question: what was the threshold of economic impact and what was the level of evidence for it that must have been met before GM-free status was approved?
The Minister is now beholden to offer industries and councils a clear explanation about why their applications were rejected.