5. State Regulation of GM Crops

    23 October 2017

    Once a genetically modified (GM) crop has been assessed by the Office of the Gene Technology Regulator (OGTR) and a license issued for commercial release, there may still be state legislated barriers to its cultivation and use.

    CropLife advocates for those states that retain a moratorium on the commercial release of GM crops to follow the scientific and economic evidence, and grant their farmers the same opportunities as their neighbours, as well as their biggest economic competitors.

    Cotton Plant and canola plant to the side of map. When you hover cursor:

    • Australia has been growing GM cotton since 1996 along with blue carnations. Today 99 per cent of cotton grown in Australia is genetically modified and its production has cut pesticide use by around 89 per cent compared to conventional cotton varieties.
    • In 2003, when the Gene Technology Regulator approved two GM canola traits for commercial release, governments in the canola-growing states imposed moratoria. The governments claimed they were concerned whether export markets would accept Australian GM canola, despite there being strong evidence that the same markets were purchasing Canadian GM canola.
    • NSW and Victoria: Independent reviews of the Victorian and New South Wales moratoria in 2007 found that earlier concerns about market access, economic impact and segregation had largely been overcome since bans on commercial cultivation of GM canola were first put in place, and GM canola can now be produced commercially in those states.
      Access to these new tools enables growers in NSW and Victoria to compete in international markets in the face of an ever changing and increasingly challenging operating environment.
    • WA: Up until 2016, WA was classified as a GM crop free zone with two exemptions, one for GM cotton in the Ord River irrigation area and the other for GM canola. With the passing of the Genetically Modified Crops Free Areas Repeal Bill 2015, WA growers now have access to new GM crops approved by the Office of the Gene Technology Regulator. This gives certainty to WA farmers and investors, and provides access to new opportunities and tools for grain growers to remain competitive.
    • Tasmania: Tasmania remains with a moratorium on the commercial release of GMOs indefinitely.
      Several independent and government commissioned reports show that Tasmania and South Australia have not gained a marketing advantage from a GM-free status, while their farmers have missed out on their share of the $1.4b income benefits gained by Australian farmers with access to crop biotechnology over the last 20 years
    • South Australia: South Australia’s moratorium on GM food crops will continue until at least 2019 despite advice to the contrary from the Government’s own expert committee. This decision poses a complex scenario for the entire supply chain – from the Victorian canola growers who border SA, to the grain handlers who have previously transported grain through the State and loaded ships in SA.
    • Queensland: Queensland has never had a moratorium on GM crops. Approval for commercial release of a GM product by the OGTR means Queensland farmers can benefit from the innovation.
    • Northern Territory: There is no GM crop moratorium (ban) in place in the Northern Territory, however, there is also no commercial cultivation of GM crops. This is because there is no cultivation of cotton or canola crops in the NT and these are the only two GM crops available for commercial cultivation in Australia.
    • Australian Capital Territory: There is a GM crop moratorium (ban) on commercial cultivation of all GM crops in the ACT however there are exemptions permitted for trials under specific conditions. There is no cultivation of cotton or canola crops in the ACT and these are the only two GM crops available for commercial cultivation in Australia.

    To maintain product integrity, CropLife members are supporting farmers who use GM cotton and canola with training and accreditation courses. This includes advocating good on-farm management to ensure sustainability of the technology and following Crop Management Plans to ensure the segregation and co-existence of GM and non-GM crops if required.