Why GM free?

South Australia has an enviable reputation for quality fresh produce – and being GM-free is an important part of that.

A wide range of our industries rely on the state’s clean, green image to market their products. The lifting of the genetically modified (GM) crop moratorium will jeopardise this image and the economic prospects of these companies.

People don’t want to eat GMOs

A representative nationwide survey of Australians conducted by Swinburne University in 2017 found that Australians are not comfortable with GM foods.

Similar consumer attitudes to GM crops exist in our key export markets, such as Europe and Japan. Even in the US, which grows around 41 per cent of the GM crops in the world, there is still strong community opposition to GM foods. In the absence of effective labelling laws, non-GMO labelled products are now among the fastest growing markets in the US food industry.

The benefits to staying GM free far outweigh those of introducing GMOs

The moratorium has provided many benefits to industry since its implementation, including:

  • price premiums and preferential market access;
  • lower production costs due to the absence of costly segregation and identity preservation processes;
  • no costly recalls caused by unwanted GM contamination – such as recently happened with wheat products in the US;
  • a reputation among domestic and export markets for high quality non-GM products.

South Australian producers are already benefiting from the state’s GM free status, both in terms of access to markets and premium prices for GM free products. In light of these demonstrated benefits, the proposal to become a GM state and lose existing market advantages for unquantified, marginal and speculative benefits seems downright perverse.

The trade benefits of a GM-free status are evident on Kangaroo Island which the SA government has allowed to remain GM-free. Japan is a big buyer of non-GM food, with one Co-op buying canola and honey for $6 million each year, only from Kangaroo Island. GM-free Zones are critical to keeping and increasing sales throughout the state.

The lifting of the moratorium could destroy wheat markets

Now that South Australia’s GM moratorium has been lifted there is nothing to stop the introduction of GM wheat if it is approved by the Federal Gene Technology Regulator. GM wheat is not commercialised anywhere in the world, because markets have stated they will immediately cancel wheat orders from any area growing GM wheat.

A 2011 Grain Growers Limited report suggests that Australia’s key export markets (80% by value) will not buy GM wheat now or in the foreseable future.

This briefing explains the benefits of councils remaining GM-free in more detail.

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