Concern as GM Act repeal nears

Headshot of Jenne Brammer
Jenne BrammerThe West Australian

The debate over GM cropping has intensified as the State Government moves closer toward repealing the GM Crops Free Areas Act 0f 2003.

Nationals Agriculture Region MLC Paul Brown last week moved a motion in the Legislative Council to recognise the benefits to the State that would materialise by repealing the Act.

In its current form, the Act prohibits the growing of genetically modified organisms in this state, but does not prohibit the transport, consumption or use of GMOs as feedstuff for animals, nor does it prohibit people from consuming it.

"The repeal of this act will remove a major disincentive for private enterprise, both at an international level and for WA producers," Mr Brown said.

"Farmers across WA will have the confidence to continue to develop their programs and to benefit from increased farm economics. For WA to have a modern, sustainable and profitable agriculture industry competing in a rapidly developing, technologically advanced global market, we have to rid ourselves of this ridiculous piece of legislation."

But Goomalling farmer and spokesman for the GM Free Farmers Group, Darrell Boase, said this motion should ring alarm bells as to the real motives behind the push for the repeal of the Act.

Mr Boase cited a vested interest by the State Government.

His concern was that the Department of Agriculture and Food is in a commercial arrangement with Monsanto, as both have held significant stakes in InterGrain since 2010.

According to InterGrain's website, current shareholders in InterGrain are the WA Government (48.7 per cent), Monsanto (26 per cent) and GRDC (25.3 per cent).

"The only increased confidence in investment and research and development would be by corporations such as Monsanto, which have a significant stake in InterGrain," Mr Boase said.

"This clearly gives the current State Government a compromising vested interest in having the Act repealed, and on behalf of the majority of WA farmers who choose not to grow GM crops, we demand full transparency on the matter."

Mr Boase said the GM Free Farmers made a submission to the Grains Industry Association of WA 2025+ strategy, which aims to double the value of the grains industry over the next decade, but these recommendations were completely ignored.

Mr Boase said the GM Free Farmers' submission was one of several submissions from groups opposing GM that were not taken into account. He said the GM Free Farmers group now comprised about 150 concerned WA farmers.

WAFarmers chief executive Stephen Brown said he welcomed the motion because a repeal of the Act would ultimately enable WA farmers to have more choice.

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