State's farmers urge debate on GM

TASMANIAN Farmers and Graziers Association chief Jan Davis says the government should consider changes to the state's moratorium on genetically modified produce.

Ms Davis said Tasmania's ban on the commercial release of genetically modified organisms to the Tasmanian environment, in place since 2001, divided opinion in the farming community.

``Some farmers think it should stay, some think it should go, and we think farmers should have the right to choose what they farm,'' Ms Davis said.

``We were given a commitment that there would be an open and transparent policy consultation, but it appears Mr Green [Primary Industries Minister Bryan Green] has already made up his mind.''

Ms Davis said the government could consider separating animals and plants, and edible and non-edible plants. 

``I don't believe it's all or nothing. The science has become more sophisticated and there's a decent case to consider non-edible plants at least''.

A report commissioned by the government last year found that the current market advantage to be gained by promoting Tasmania's GMO-free status was likely to be quite limited.

Mr Green has previously said he would ``engage with the Parliament'' on how to proceed, although Labor's current policy is to extend the moratorium.

``It is an important subject for Tasmania and we want to take as many people with us on this as we can,'' Mr Green said.

The Tasmanian government has maintained a policy banning a ``commercial release of genetically modified organisms to the Tasmanian environment'' since 2001, and most recently extended the moratorium in 2009.

The poppy industry is one of the groups campaigning for change, arguing a genetically modified product would make it easier to tailor to market demand.

Liberal primary industries spokesman Jeremy Rockliff said the opposition ``would take part in the review, consult widely and listen to stakeholder views''.

A decision on a possible extension of the moratorium is expected before the state election, scheduled for March 2014. 

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