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Letter to Parliamentarians on gene editing methods - 8 August 2019

The following letter has been sent to the Health Minister and key parliamentarians in respect of the Government's deregulation of gene editing methods.

 

8 August 2019

Organic Industries of Australia Limited, as the Interim Peak Body of the Australian Organic Industry, has grave concerns over the government's plan to deregulate gene editing methods in Australia from 8 October.

As shown in OIA's recent Export Strategy (https://organicindustries.com.au/exports), the Organic industry continues to be shining light of export market growth in Australia.

Under the new definitions of GMOs nearly three decades of work by thousands of farmers is under threat because many GMOs (as defined by our export markets) will no longer be registered, regulated or labelled in Australia, hampering traceability and making organic status almost impossible to verify in Australia.

Australian organic exports rely on produce meeting the organic standards as set by importing countries. In China, Europe and other markets, SDN1 and CRISPR – CAS9 technology does not comply with those standards. Under this move, Australian organic product could no longer be certified as organic on those and other premium export markets.

To comprehend the impact of the proposed changes on the organic industry, consider:

  • The global organic market is worth US$97 billion in 2017.
  • The Australian organic industry is worth A$2.6 billion. *
  • Of that value, 26% is export, and the premium for organic products is at least 20%.
  • Therefore the “worst case” current cost to Australia of loss of premium organic markets is as much as A$520 million in premiums alone.
  • There is no compensation plan for this loss.

 

However, the longer term opportunity cost is potentially higher, with the organic industry still growing at a rate of 45% per annum. Also needing to be measured are the undue financial and compliance costs that will be imposed on the Australian organic industry in order to avoid complete export market collapse; costs that our competitors will not have to worry about.

Parliament has until 12 September 2019 to disallow the regulatory amendments. We implore you to support the call for:

  1. a Senate inquiry into the impacts of the Gene Technology Amendment (2019 Measures No. 1) Regulations 2019, including detailed analysis along the lines above and into the creation of a compensation fund for loss of export income;
  2. no deregulation of new GMOs until they are accepted by all premium agricultural export markets;
  3. keeping and strengthening the Gene Technology Act 2000, the cornerstone of Australia's evidence-based regulatory system for GM animals, plants and microbes.

Yours faithfully,

Greg McNamara
Greg McNamara
Chair, Organic Industries Australia

 

Footnote: Australian Organic Market Report 2019—Australian Organic Ltd