Tasmania to remain free of GMO for at least five more years

Daily Telegraph, August 20 2014

TASMANIAN agriculture is set to remain free of genetically modified organisms for at least five more years, with the State Government opting to extend a longstanding GMO ban.

The Bill tabled in the House of Assembly yesterday has received qualified support from the state’s peak farming body, beekeepers and the Greens.

Primary Industries Minister Jeremy Rockliff said the Bill took into account the findings of last year’s review by the Department, which considered 160 public submissions and new market research.

“The review demonstrated that there is currently no imperative to change from having a moratorium,” he said.

“The Liberal Government believes that a five-year moratorium is a commonsense approach that strikes an appropriate balance between the needs of today and the possibilities of tomorrow.”

Mr Rockliff said the moratorium would be again reviewed prior to its expiry date in 2019.

In January the former state government announced the 13-year moratorium on GM food crops would be continued indefinitely.

While hailed by exporters of high-end products, the move was condemned by the TFGA and poppy growers who wanted the possibility of future access to GMOs.

TFGA chief executive Jan Davis said while the Liberals’ decision on a five-year moratorium was better than an indefinite ban, opinion was divided within the farming sector over the use of GMOs.

“Research commissioned by the previous government confirmed the fact that remaining GM-free comes at a cost to Tasmanian farmers,” she said.

“The government must recognise this impact on farmers’ overall returns.

“We need to be open to reassessment of the situation as new technologies and products are developed, and as markets change.”

Tasmanian Beekeepers’ Association spokesman Lindsay Bourke said a five-year continuation of the ban would provide the industry with some much-needed certainty.

Tasmanian’s GMO-free status has given the state’s honey producers access to lucrative European markets which refuse to accept products that contains genetically modified material.

“It will extend Tasmania’s clean, green image and give greater security around the world for our products,” Mr Bourke said.

Greens leader Kim Booth welcomed the Bill, but said it did not go far enough.

“The Greens’ preferred position is to see the five year moratorium become an indefinite ban to provide long term investment, employment and marketing of our GE-free status for our producers and consumers,” he said.

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