GM Bill uncertainty hinders planning for 2017 season

The loss of hundreds of thousands of tonnes of crops due to severe weather, combined with a potential downgrade in quality, has prompted WAFarmers to call on the Premier to make the repeal of the GM Free Areas Bill 2003 a priority ahead of the State Election.

The Bill passed through the Legislative Council in late June, but has not progressed further since then.

WAFarmers Grains Section President Duncan Young said the uncertainty around the future of GM in Western Australia meant that planning for the 2017 season could be difficult.

“It is unclear at this stage whether the Bill will be passed, and it is this uncertainty that is making it difficult for farmers to appropriately plan for the next season,” Mr Young said.

“We are particularly concerned that government will go into caretaker mode at the end of the year, meaning that the passing of the Bill might not occur until after the State Election in March – this would be way too late for growers to make business decisions in preparation for seeding next season.

“We implore Premier Barnett to acknowledge that this is a time critical issue and to make it a priority before caretaker mode begins so that appropriate actions can be taken to produce the best possible crop.”

Over the last six to eight weeks, approximately $140 million has been lost from the state’s 2016 harvest due to weather conditions including severe frost.

Mr Young said GM had always been a contentious issue, and reiterated that WAFarmers supported the right for farmers to choose to grow traditional or GM crops.

“Should the legislation pass, the choice would lie entirely with the farmers as to whether or not they would use genetically modified cultivars to produce GM grains,” he said.

“Not only would this allow farmers to produce GM crops if that is what they wish to do, but it would open up space for greater research and development into other peril-resistant crops.

“Continued research to help find solutions to ongoing problems such as frost, salinity and drought would be enhanced by having this Bill repealed, giving certainty to farmers and researchers.”

ENDS.

All media requests must be directed to WAFarmers Media and Communications Officer Melanie Dunn on (08) 9486 2100 or [email protected].

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