NSW will lift its ban on genetically modified crops in a move welcomed by the state’s peak farming body.
Agriculture Minister Adam Marshall said the 18-year moratorium on GM crops would be lifted in July and was expected to deliver a multi-billion-dollar boost to primary industry.
He expects the state’s farming sector will embrace GM technologies, opening the way for billions of dollars in benefits across NSW.
“The potential agronomic and health benefits of future GM crops include everything from drought and disease resistance, to more efficient uptake of soil nutrients, increased yield and better weed control,” Mr Marshall said on Tuesday.
The NSW government forecasts GM technology could see farmers boost production by almost 10 per cent and save them up to 35 per cent on overheads.
It’s forecast to deliver up to $4.8 billion in total gross benefits across NSW primary industries over the next decade.
“This is also great news for consumers as by lifting the ban we are empowering companies to invest in GM technology that has the potential to remove allergens such as gluten, improve taste and deliver enhanced nutrition,” he said.
NSW Farmers welcomed the decision, provided producers had a choice and any genetically modified organism was approved by an independent, science-based Australian regulator.
It says farmers who want to cultivate GM crops should have the opportunity to make informed choices about what to sow.
“For farmers, it’s all about the right to choose,” NSW Farmers president James Jackson said.
“We do have confidence in the Office of the Gene Technology Regulator as an independent science based regulator that will balance the risks and benefits of different GM crops.”
Dave McKeon from Grain Growers, which represents grain farmers across Australia, welcomed the moratorium being lifted, saying it brings NSW into line with other states.
Tasmania and Kangaroo Island off South Australia remain the only areas with state-based moratoriums still in place.
Mr McKeon says not all farmers will want to take advantage of the GM technology, with less than 30 per cent of the current canola crop grown in NSW genetically modified.
“It will be up to farmers to decide whether to use the technology. We have been growing GM crops in Australia for over 20 years and ultimately we need to allow farmers to use a cropping system that best suits their environment,” he told AAP.
NSW Greens MP Tamara Smith MP said ending the ban posed an unacceptable threat to ecosystems.
“The real problem with genetically modified crops is they allow a system in which just a few companies hold immense power over our food supply,” the member for Ballina told AAP.
“We should be focusing on increasing the resilience of our food crop. It’s very disappointing that the NSW government is focusing on industrial agriculture and GM crops instead of regenerative agriculture, which the rest of the world is moving towards.
“We still have very little understanding of the long term of impacts of genetically modified crops on the environment, and human and animal health.”