Parliament Passes Genetically Modified Crops Free Areas Repeal Bill 2015

Parliament Passes Genetically Modified Crops Free Areas Repeal Bill 2015

Western Australia Minister for Agriculture and Food Mark Lewis

More Opportunity For Genetically Modified (GM) Crops

Victor P Taffa

  • Decision clears red tape and provides more choice for WA growers

State Parliament last night repealed legislation and removed a barrier to Western Australia’s grain growers from accessing genetically modified crops approved by the national regulator.

Agriculture and Food Minister Mark Lewis said the passing of the Genetically Modified Crops Free Areas Repeal Bill 2015 was great news for WA agribusiness exports, already worth close to $8 Billion a year.

It repeals outdated legislation from 2004 that designated all of Western Australia as an area where GM crops could not be grown, except by exemption order. Exemptions were granted for commercial cultivation of GM cotton in the Ord River irrigation area and GM canola in WA.

“This will give certainty to our farmers and investors, reduce red tape and provide access to new opportunities and tools for grain growers to be innovative.” Mr. Lewis said.

“GM technology is a transformative technology, enabling major improvements in pest and disease resistance, crop productivity and adaption to differing growing conditions.”

“It is essential when we are presented with these new and approved technologies to produce higher yielding crops, that we don’t delay in embracing them. We don’t want to see our valuable agriculture sector lose out to other Australian States, not to mention our international competitors.” Mr. Lewis said.

The Minister said the Liberal National Government had a range of strategies to significantly boost agricultural production, and take advantage of increasing demand from new and existing markets.

“In the face of tough global markets and even tougher weather conditions, we need to give our farmers a better chance to compete on a level playing field in these valuable markets by allowing them to use approved GM technologies.” Mr. Lewis said.

“We now have strong overseas markets for our GM crops and this decision augurs well for our future.”

The initial legislation was a conservative approach designed to give Western Australia time to develop protocols and systems to manage and segregate non-GM from GM crops, and protect the State’s agricultural reputation. However, it is now an unnecessary barrier, preventing WA growers from accessing new GM crops approved by the Gene Technology Regulator until an exemption order is approved.

Fact File

  • GM canola makes up 30% of WA’s total canola plantings, showing grower demand for this technology
  • Since 2010, Europe has imported more than 4 Million tonnes of GM canola from WA
  • In Australia, almost 100% of cotton produced is GM, offering significant cost savings and environmental gains from reduced insecticide use