Support found for GMO ban

THE indefinite ban on genetically modified organisms was met by opposition from facets of the agricultural industry last week, but many more industries support the state government's extension.

Players from the wine, seed, bee, organic produce, tourism, hospitality and livestock industries represented in the 160 submissions received by the government for the moratorium review  argued for the ban.

The risk of consumer backlash over biotech foods and the need to protect the GMO-free market advantage  trumped GMO possibilities for the dairy and poppy industries.

Primary Industries Minister Bryan Green said the extension allowed Tasmanian businesses to confidently invest in GMO-free marketing, and would allow new GMO-free opportunities to develop. 

But Mr Green still left the window open for future gene technologies.

``At some point in the future there may be a compelling case to consider the introduction of GMOs into Tasmania,'' Mr Green said.

``These triggers could include new GMOs that provide health or other benefits, increased consumer acceptance in important markets  or technologies that provide positive benefits to particular primary industry sectors and Tasmania as a whole.''

Rangeview Seeds owner Peter Coxhead said new seed markets could be created with the extended ban, for instance GMO-free soya beans for Japan, as well as GMO-free corn.

Black Ridge Farm owner Don Thomson said niche, high-value products, which represented the future of agriculture in Tasmania, could continue to be developed with the ban. 

An Australian Dairy Industry Council spokesman said the industry had a long-term investment in GM pastures, such as a high-energy ryegrass estimated to increase milk production by 10 per cent.

He said this was the case for other agricultural sectors such as grain, horticulture, oil, seeds and cotton.

``Modelling suggests that high-energy ryegrass could deliver an economic benefit of $200 per hectare to dairy farmers, as well as environmental benefits,'' he said.

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