Upper house vote against lifting GM moratorium

Wade Nickolls, a farmer from Pinaroo, shared this aerial photo to Twitter.
Wade Nickolls, a farmer from Pinaroo, shared this aerial photo to Twitter.

After two weeks of trying to push through new legislation to lift the genetically modified (GM) crop moratorium on mainland South Australia, government has failed to gain support of crossbenchers in the upper house, who voted against the bill on Tuesday evening.

A motion in parliament two weeks ago blocked regulatory changes to immediately lift the ban, after it was argued the government was side-stepping parliamentary due process.

Instead the government introduced the Genetically Modified Crops Management (Designated Area) Amendment Bill 2019 last week, which was passed in the lower house last Tuesday night.

However, after resuming for an unexpected sitting week this week, the upper house voted against passing the bill into law.

Minister for Primary Industries and Regional Development Tim Whetstone said "time and time again" the opposition was "getting in the way of progress" for South Australia.

"It's about time the Labor Party and SA Best took their heads out of the sand and actually listened to the people of South Australia," he said.

However, SA Best and Labour said they had no choice but to vote down the bill as the state government was unwilling to compromise.

"Our stance today will no doubt upset many, many farmers today, and it greatly disappoints us that we weren't able to deliver what they were seeking, however we also need to take into consideration other farmers and organic growers who don't want GM crops and may be adversely impacted," said SA Best member of the legislative council Connie Bonaros.

Labour spokesperson for primary industries Eddie Hughes said they were willing to work with the government on a bill that struck "the right balance".

"This is an important bill which deserves proper consideration - not a rushed bid to ram it through parliament before the end of the year," he said.

"Labor's offer of a bi-partisan approach remains on the table."

Farmers across the state have taken to social media in recent days to show their support for the bill, by using the hashtag created by Grain Producers SA, #backtheGMbill.

Chief executive officer Caroline Rhodes said she was thrilled with the support for their social media campaign, but said GPSA was "bitterly disappointed" about the vote.

"What started with GPSA Chairman Wade Dabinett recording a short video from his paddock at Parilla, has now led to a catalogue of recordings from farmers across Australia," she said.

"The short videos are unscripted and authentic testimonials from grassroots farmers, capturing the attention of politicians and media alike."