Public reaction to this news left no doubt as to how the majority of South Australians feel about keeping South Australia GM-free. Over several days, the Advertiser newspaper published letters to the editor that expressed support for the GM ban. The Adelaide Now online news service also received similar feedback to the article.
SAGFIN was established in 1998 when the first GM products began making their way on to Australian supermarket shelves and many Australians were unaware of the existence of GM foods. Back then, the argument put forward by GM promoters was that if the Australian public rejected GM food it was because the public was uneducated and uninformed about the genetic manipulation of food crops. Today the public have demonstrated that they are well informed about the issues relative to GM crops and food and their opposition is even stronger.
The reaction to the call to lift the moratorium was a reminder to our state government of the public’s support for the ban. The present government extended the moratorium in 2008 and has confirmed its commitment to supporting the ban until 2019. SAGFIN understands that the state opposition has also committed to supporting the ban but only until the next election in 2014. SAGFIN will be endeavouring to meet with the Shadow Minister for Agriculture, Adrian Pederick MP, in the new year and in the meantime has secured a meeting with Gail Gago MLC, Minister for Agriculture, for January 2012 in order to discuss their respective views on the future of GM agriculture in South Australia. The Greens have a clear policy on GMO’s and support applying the precautionary principle by maintaining “a moratorium on the release of GMOs into the environment until there is an adequate scientific understanding of their long term impact on the environment, and human and animal health.”
The benefits to South Australia of upholding the ban have been proven. While Western Australia continues to suffer from contamination issues since it approved the commercial cultivation of genetically engineered crops in 2010, South Australian farmers are reaping the benefit of a premium for their non-GM crops. A premium of $50/tonne over the price for GM canola was confirmed this year by Co-operative Bulking Handling and the premium is expected to be maintained. South Australia has positioned itself well to take advantage of any market that shuns Western Australia because of GM contamination concerns. While the benefits of the moratorium may be obvious for many of the food producers in South Australia, some sectors of the food industry continue to oppose the moratorium.
No doubt the GM industry will continue its push to have the moratorium removed in South Australia and will intensify its efforts as we move towards the next election but by continuing to be pro-active, vigilant and timely with our responses we can keep SA GM-free.