Skip navigation

Gene Technology Amendment Bill

23 March 2023

The Hon. R.A. SIMMS: I rise to speak on behalf of the Greens in support of this bill. The purpose of the bill, as has been outlined by my colleagues the Hon. Ms Lensink and the Hon. Mr Wortley, is to bring South Australia into line with other states and to ensure there is no inconsistency with federal legislation and regulations.

The Greens are certainly not against the bill. We recognise it is a necessary step to ensure national consistency in adoption of gene technology. It is important to note, however, that there is a provision in this bill that ensures South Australia adopts commonwealth changes by regulation, providing the ability to disallow any related regulations made. Giving the South Australian parliament oversight over gene technology is a very important accountability measure.

Currently, gene technology is used in agriculture, animal health, food, human health and industrial chemicals. Gene technology can be used to produce targeted therapies for diseases such as cancer as well as to create vaccines, something I know is particularly important to us all during the time of COVID. People dependent on insulin for diabetes are beneficiaries of gene technology, as insulin is often produced using genetically modified cells. Some of these technologies are critical to community health and thus it is vitally important to ensure there are no inconsistencies between jurisdictions.

Many in this place will recall the Greens' long-term opposition to lifting the moratorium on genetically modified crops in South Australia. Indeed, my colleague the Hon. Mark Parnell repeatedly moved to disallow regulations lifting the moratorium. The Greens continue to believe that there are adverse environmental and health impacts associated with growing GM crops. We also know that there has been at least one high-profile case involving Monsanto, the world's biggest GM seed supplier, where seeds were resistant to herbicides that were manufactured.

Farmers were encouraged to use their herbicides to kill weeds without harming their crops—a herbicide that the World Health Organization has classified as containing 'a probable human carcinogen'. We must therefore watch carefully the actions of large corporations which are seeking to create monopolies over our food security and environmental health when it comes to gene technology.

Now that the moratorium has been lifted and the GM horse has bolted in South Australia, it will be difficult for us to go back. While we are disappointed in that result, we do acknowledge, of course, that there are gene technologies that can lead to positive outcomes, in particular in terms of community health and wellbeing.

Inconsistencies between the state and federal jurisdictions could lead to loopholes or gaps in this industry that need to be tightly controlled and regulated. The Greens therefore support the bill, with the assurance that regulation will still be required in South Australia and recognising that the parliament will still have some power to disallow. With that, I conclude my remarks.