New South Wales (NSW) is lifting its ban on genetically modified crops to deliver a multi-billion-dollar boost to its primary industry. Adopting the genetically modified (GM) technology is estimated by the government to deliver up to $4.8 billion in financial gains across New South Wales’ primary industries over the next ten years.
Announcing the NSW government’s decision to end the 18-year moratorium on genetically modified (GM) crops on July 1, NSW Agriculture Minister Adam Marshall said on March 2, that the GM moratorium was enacted over twenty years ago to manage trade and marketing issues.
“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,” Agriculture Minister Adam Marshall said.
The reform is expected to boost production by almost 10 percent and save farmers up to 35 percent in costs. The decision also brings NSW in line with Queensland, Western Australia and the Northern Territory and South Australia, with the only exception being Kangaroo Island.
“This will be a key area of growth on our path to a $19 billion industry by 2023,” Marshall said.
However, organic farming representatives say that this decision made by the NSW government will hurt its thriving industry.
Chairman of the National Association for Sustainable Agriculture Australia, Tim Marshall, told The Guardian: “We simply don’t think that GM technology is necessary.”
Tim Marshall added that organic farms will now face the problem of contamination from wind-blow seed and pollen of GM crops threatening their viability as organic growers.
“If [GM technology] is going to be used, there needs to be some protection for organic farmers.”
The Minister said there was “a robust safety system in place,” and all applications to grow modified crops would be assessed by the Commonwealth Gene Technology Regulator.
James Jackson, president of NSW Farmers, said in a media release that farmers who wish to cultivate GM crops should have the opportunity to make informed choices.
“For farmers, it’s all about the right to choose,” Jackson said.
Jackson also added that the NSW Farmers have confidence in the Office of the Gene Technology Regulator as an “independent science-based regulator” and faith that the office will “balance the risks and benefits of different GM crops or applications.”
He also stressed the importance of truth in labelling as a tool to create trust and acceptance between farmers and consumers.
GM crops have been growing in NSW despite the moratorium with the state government approving GM canola, cotton and safflower crops for commercial cultivation in 2008.