Looking for EP farmers’ views on GM crops

I am interested in hearing from farmers and the broader community on the Eyre Peninsula about their views on GM crops and the current GM moratorium in South Australia. The reason for the interest is my recent appointment as Labor’s Shadow Minister for Primary Industries and a desire to hear direct from primary producers in addition to peak bodies such as Grain Producers SA.

South Australia is the only mainland state with a moratorium on the use of genetically modified crops. The moratorium was extended last year partly based on the claim that South Australia would receive a price premium due to the moratorium. To what extent there is a price premium is an interesting question.

There is currently a private members motion before the Legislative Assembly calling for the establishment of a Select Committee to inquire into and report on the moratorium on the cultivation of GM crops in South Australia.

The motion is couched in terms of looking at the costs and the benefits of GM crops from an economic and environmental perspective.

If the establishment of the Select Committee is supported it has the potential to do some good work and it will provide an opportunity to canvass a range of views.

Determining whether there is a price premium and the extent of that premium should be a relatively straightforward exercise. Conclusions on the broader environmental impacts, both positive and negative, should be guided by the balance of the scientific evidence.

Over a period of just under two decades GM crop production has increased from 1.7 million hectares in 1996 to 182 million hectares in 2014.

Nearly all that production involved cotton, maize, canola and soybean. To put that into a wider perspective just 3.7 percent of the world’s agricultural land is used to cultivate GM crops.

I cannot overestimate the importance of a robust scientific approach on this issue and a number of other issues that we confront. Science is one of the most powerful tools we have invented. What is especially important is science that is seen to be independent. That is why we should be doing far more to increase public funding both at a state and a federal level when it comes to scientific research.

EDDIE HUGHES

Member for Giles