July 16, 2021

Genetically modified crops can now be grown in the Australian state of New South Wales, leaving Tasmania as the only part of the country where they are banned.

The new rules – which end an 18-month moratorium on growing genetically modified organisms in the state – were announced earlier this year and came into force at the beginning of this month.

Officials have said the change will slash overheads by more than one third and will help improve yields by 10%, creating $4.8 billion (€3.03 billion) in benefits over the next decade.

Among the key GM crops grown in Australia are canola, safflower, carnations and cotton, of which 99% grown in Australia is said to be GM.

While some have welcomed the move, it has sparked controversy among organic agriculture advocates concerned by the risk of contamination.

Lawyers too have said this is a possible downside, with three legal experts at Corrs Chambers Westgarth, a law firm, saying that organic certification could be lost.

“As farmers begin to grow GM crops, adjoining organic farms face the risk of their fields being contaminated by windblown seed and pollen from GM crops,” they wrote on the Mondaq website.

In one high-profile case, a farmer in West Australia, Steve Marsh, lost organic certification for much of his crops in 2010 when GM canola from an adjacent farm blew onto his fields.

Marsh took legal action against the neighbouring farmer, but lost and was left with a legal bill totalling hundreds of thousands of dollars.

As reported recently, researchers have suggested that the European Union should allow gene editing, a type of genetic modification, within its definition of organic farming.

The lifting of New South Wales ban on GM crops was announced earlier this year.
Nearly all cotton grown in Australia is genetically modified.

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