Legislative Council Wednesday 16 October 2019
Ms FORREST (Murchison) - Mr President, I commend the Government for taking this stand and this approach. It is evidence-based and a review was done. I will quote a number of sections from that review to back my support for the bill as it stands before us.
It is interesting to note that it has been difficult to define what we are talking about. I go back to the Joint Select Committee's Gene Technology in Primary Industries report in 2008, produced by a committee I sat on.
The first part of the executive summary helps us better understand this, and I will refer to another document that further clarifies. Reading from the executive summary -
Plant, animal and microbial breeding, regardless of how it is accomplished, typically involves generating genetic diversity, selecting superior genotypes from it and multiplying those for commercial release and distribution.
The key difference between classical breeding and breeding involving gene technology lies in the way genetic diversity is achieved. Whereas classical breeding generates variety from sexual crossing between members of the same species or near relatives, gene technology allows particular DNA sequences (transgenes) from any plant, animal, microbial or synthetic source to be inserted directly into the nuclear DNA of a recipient cell. This is known as transformation. Other modern techniques that do not rely on sexual crossing also produce genetic variation (e.g. DNA mutation induced by radiation, chemicals or through cell culture) however, these do not involve introducing foreign DNA. Therefore, the defining feature of gene technology is that it facilitates incorporation into a host genome of a far wider range of genetic material than previously possible.
What you see as a result of this is something that could not occur in nature. I go to an article from Live Science from February this year. I want to read the beginning of this because it jut talks about what genetic modification is -
Genetic modification is the process of altering the genetic makeup of an organism. This has been done indirectly for thousands of years by controlled, or selective, breeding of plants and animals. Modern biotechnology has made it easier and faster to target a specific gene for a more precise alteration of the organism through genetic engineering.
The terms 'modified' and 'engineered' are often used interchangeably in the context of labelling genetically modified, or 'GMO', foods. In the field of biotechnology, GMO stands for genetically modified organism, while in the food industry the term refers exclusively to food that has been purposefully engineered and not selectively bred organisms. This discrepancy leads to confusion among consumers, and so the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) prefers the term genetically engineered (GE) for food.
It is important we understand we are talking about two different things here. When we go to the section about genetically modified food, the article reads -
There are four primary methods of genetically modifying crops, according to the Ohio State University:
· Selective breeding: Two strains of plants are introduced and bred to produce offspring with specific features. Between 10,000 and 300,000 genes can be affected. This is the oldest method of genetic modification and is typically not included in the GMO food category.
We talked about selective breeding. I will come back to that -
· Mutagenesis: Plant seeds are purposely exposed to chemicals or radiation in order to mutate the organisms. The offspring with the desired traits are kept and further bred. Mutagenesis is also not typically included in the GMO food category.
· RNA interference: Individual, undesirable genes in plants are inactivated in order to remove any undesired traits -
RNA being ribonucleic acid -
· Transgenics: A gene is taken from one species and implanted in another in order to introduce a desirable trait.
The last two methods listed are considered types of genetic engineering. Today, certain crops have undergone genetic engineering to improve crop yield, resistance to insect damage and immunity to plant diseases, as well as to introduce increased nutritional value, according to the FDA. In the market, these are called genetically modified or GMO crops.
In recent years, the widespread cultivation of GMO crops has become increasingly controversial.
'One concern is the impact of GMOs on the environment', Jacob said.
They are quoting Nitya Jacob, a crop scientist at Oxford College of Emory University in Georgia -
For example, pollen from GMO crops can drift to fields of non-GMO crops as well as into weed populations which can lead to non-GMOs acquiring GMO characteristics due to cross-pollination.
It is important to clarify what we are talking about in this debate and what we are actually extending a moratorium for. It is the process that modifies an organism that could not actually happen by a selective breeding process by using the same plants, basically. We are not talking about humans either at this stage, thankfully, I might say.
I noted during the Government's consideration of this proposal - required under the act to undertake a review on why it is being done - that a number of key stakeholders were consulted about this, including Fruit Growers Tasmania, TFGA, Poppy Growers Tasmania, DairyTas, and the Tasmanian Agricultural Productivity Group. I believe others were also involved in that review. I thank those people for coming to brief us. It is important to hear various opinions and sides in this debate, and I welcome that because it challenges all of us to really think about why we would or would not support any particular change or continuation of the moratorium.
I appreciate the views expressed in the briefing that there needs to be some flexibility around the moratorium. I am not sure how you have flexibility around a moratorium - either it is a moratorium or it is not - but I think what was being referred to in that flexibility was the need for ongoing review. That is fine, that is what is happening and what will continue to happen. That is not going to change, and I suggest neither should it in terms of ensuring we are acting on the best available science and looking at all matters to be considered, which includes our markets and where we pitch ourselves as a state.
I note that Ms Davis and Mr Armstrong talked about farmers being put behind the eight ball by the moratorium. That was the term used. I am not sure on what basis they claim that. The interesting thing is that where we see the GM crops, and only a limited number are allowed in Australia, these are predominantly broadscale production areas of cotton, canola, soybeans and safflower. These are big crops. I do not know if anyone has ever flown over some of these farms, but they are massive. Some of them would take up huge tracts of Tasmania if you dropped it in one big paddock or a number of paddocks. They are huge.
Tasmania is never going to be a producer on that scale. We just do not have the land mass, we do not have the great tracts of open land that occur on the mainland. We have always been seen, and I think we will probably always continue to be seen, as having a niche market approach and a higher quality market. It is better to get a premium price for your product and grow a quality product because we cannot grow a lot of things. While there are some people who put produce into the commodity market, like some of our dairy farmers through Fonterra, it is interesting that Fonterra supports the moratorium. Fonterra is one of the few organisations that does put produce into the major commodity markets.
If you look around, certainly in my electorate, and as anyone else who has rural areas in their own electorate will know, the majority of primary producers are smaller. A lot of them are still big by Tasmanian standards, but they are not big on a world scale or the national scale. We need to look at our point of difference. This is why I think we are seeing such a growth in organic production being promoted around Tasmania: because it is an additional point of difference. Biodynamics is the next, and I think we will see more of that.
I have travelled in the last few years to the United States, Europe and the United Kingdom, which is still part of Europe at the moment. All around the world, the growth in organics is staggering. Where you used to see a small section - tragically enough my husband and I do visit supermarkets while we are travelling; he has a funny obsession with them about seeing what is where and how much is taken up by dairy products - looking at the expansion in organic food is phenomenal. We visited Minneapolis to look at what is going on there. It is amazing. There are massive fridges of organic dairy products, for example.
I believe it is the future for Tasmania in many respects. I acknowledge an interest: my husband and I have an interest in a very small, niche organic dairy in the north-west. It is one of many in this state.
Mr Finch - You are reminding me of the time I went to England and talked about eggs when I came back. I did a presentation here about free-range eggs and I was pooh-poohed. I said that in time people will vote with their feet. You only have to look at the shelves on the supermarkets and the price people pay for caged eggs, $3.50 for a dozen, and a premium price of $6.50 for a dozen free-range eggs, but people pay it.
Ms FORREST - Not everyone in our community can afford to pay. We still have many people living in very difficult economic times but we are not only talking about the Tasmanian market. We were talking about the mainland market. We are talking about the eastern seaboard. A lot of our produce goes into Victoria and the markets there.
Mr Gaffney - It is the chickens that are free range.
Ms FORREST - Yes, free range-laid eggs. We also have free-range chicken you can eat, too, from Nichols Poultry. My husband is no longer involved in the company that runs that and has not been for a long time, as a matter of declaration.
Mr Finch - A friend of mine was travelling in England and, for the first time - this is about 30 years ago - he saw a sign that said free-range eggs and he went into to get some for free.
Ms FORREST - They were free? No.
In Tasmania, we have high-value crops; we have niche markets we can sell into and we are trading on the GMO-free status of the whole state. Not only is the north-west coast, or the Huon Valley or the Tamar Valley GMO-free, but the state itself is GMO-free. On a world scale, people think we are about the size of a five cent piece. If you said to people in America that the west coast was GMO-free, they would think, 'Well, how big is the west coast? It is only a tiny place, anyway.' It is important from a marketing perspective that the state is seen as GMO-free. The more high‑value crops we can get out of this state, and they are getting the premium price, the more sustainable our agricultural businesses will be.
Governments past and current continue to invest in irrigation in our state, which is a really important way to boost our agricultural production. It is fascinating to drive through the Midlands, which I do on a regular basis, and see how the Midlands are now being used for agricultural purposes when properties used to simply provide grazing for sheep, and the high value is being added to that.
We need to remember what we are seeking to do in Tasmania, from our state's perspective. The other point Mr Bourke raised was the importance of pollination services from bees. Bees are seriously under threat around the world and if the bees die, we die. End of game, it's over. We need to be very conscious of bee health and what we are doing for bees, generally. I will come to some of these points in the report that talk about that. Mr Bourke talked about the key honey markets - Japan, the EU and the UAE. These markets are predominately there because of the GMO‑free status.
Blue Hills Honey is one of the biggest producers particularly of leatherwood honey in my electorate; it is terribly important to them. It would destroy their business to get rid of this status. They would lose those markets; that is the endgame. They have worked so hard to build the business up. It might be not a big industry in the scheme of all industry in Tasmania but surely we can see the importance of it in honey production and bee pollination services run by other beekeepers?
To go through some of these points in the new review. The member for Windermere talked about industry. It says on page 12 -
The dairy industry is Tasmania's largest agricultural industry, with a gross farm gate value of $429 million. There were mixed views within this industry, with dairy processor Fonterra and the Organic Dairy Farmers of Australia (ODFA) co-operative both expressing support for the moratorium, while the State's peak industry body DairyTas noted the impediments of the moratorium and potential benefits of GM pasture species and animal feed. The Tasmanian Farmers and Graziers Association (TFGA) also noted these potential benefits for the dairy and livestock industries.
There were mixed views in the dairy industry, but some of our biggest producers support it from a marketing perspective. Two submissions were received from stakeholders of the $337 million beef industry, Greenham Tasmania Proprietary Limited and Tasmania Feedlot Proprietary Limited. Both are strongly in favour of the moratorium and provided substantial evidence to demonstrate how it has provided them with a marketing advantage.
The member for Windermere was asking about the evidence. The evidence was provided to the review. On page 78, there is a section called 'GMO Moratorium Benefits - Case Studies', which talks about Tasmanian GMO-free beef -
The $337 million Tasmanian beef industry provides several notable examples of the marketing benefits provided by the moratorium. For instance, Greenham Tasmania relies on Tasmania's GMO-free status is a key part of its marketing program. All of the company's beef production is sold as 'Tasmanian' while three quarters is also specifically marketed as 'non-GMO'.
This provenance branding has enabled Greenham Tasmania to access valuable markets in the United States worth a combined total of $60-$80 million per annum.
Greenham Tasmania is in my electorate, so I know what they do and how much this matters to them. Even though all beef in Tasmania may be GMO-free, this is their marketing advantage. That figure of $60 million to $80 million per annum is the one the member for Windermere asked about -
These customers actively seek to purchase beef certified as non-GMO, with these products commanding a price premium. This premium flows through to Tasmanian farmers, with Greenham's 1,800 suppliers estimated to receive an additional $125 per animal over and above conventional animal prices.
Another declaration of interest is that my parents sell some of their beef to Greenham. Dad is 91 and Mum is 82, and they are still selling meat to Greenham -
Tasmania Feedlot, which finishes around 18,000 - 20,000 Angus steers per annum destined for Japanese markets, also relies heavily on Tasmania's GMO-free status and reputation as a clean, green and safe producer of premium beef. They have noted that removal of the moratorium would make it difficult to continue to guarantee that inputs to their beef are free from GM material, which would in turn make it difficult to retain access to Japanese markets.
Access to these valuable markets, made possible by the GMO moratorium, has helped to make beef Tasmania's most valuable international food export in 2017‑18, representing $210 million out of a total food export value of $740 million.
There is your evidence. In other case studies -
Tasmanian GMO-free dairy
Dairy is Tasmania's highest value agricultural industry, with a farm gate value of $429 million. While there are a range of views concerning the GMO moratorium within the industry, submissions from the Organic Dairy Farmers of Australia co-operative and Tasmania's largest milk processor Fonterra Australia both advocated extension of the moratorium for marketing reasons.
In New Zealand, Fonterra Australia's parent company recently developed a segregated milk pool for certified non-GMO milk products, which are reportedly achieving greater market share and price premiums in some export markets.
There is your evidence -
Fonterra noted the State's GMO moratorium makes it a potential location for sourcing non-GMO milk products certified through the non-GMO project.
A number of dairy farms within Tasmania are already transitioning toward organic certification, with several processors commencing production of branded Tasmanian organic dairy milk. Extension of the GMO moratorium will help to maintain and build Tasmania's clean and green reputation and provide an environment in which these high-value industries can expand and thrive.
We know there is continual pressure to grow the dairy sector in this state. We are seeing farms I did not think could be converted - because it takes a while and sometimes the land is not in the best condition - being converted to organic. But once you start looking after the land effectively, it does become possible and we have seen this happen. It makes sense when you can see the economic return with the price premium.
The GMO honey members of the $8 million honey industry also actively promote the GMO‑free providence of Tasmanian honey in both domestic and international markets. Countries such as New Zealand - which is the Tasmanian industry's main competitor - also market honey as GMO-free, meaning the loss of Tasmanian GMO-free status will impact Tasmania's competitiveness in honey markets.
Removal of the moratorium could permit cultivation of GMO crops, exposing beekeepers to the risk GM pollen will contaminate honey products. As Mr Bourke said, 'You do not have honey if you do not have pollen'. You will see companies taken to task for that.
Mrs Hiscutt - There was a place here six or seven months ago with fake honey.
Mr Valentine - That $8 million is now $12 million.
Ms FORREST - This would impact on access to markets such as Japan, the EU and the United Emirates, which would in turn threaten the profitability and security of honey production in Tasmania. That would have serious implications for pollination service provision in this state at a time when the number of hives required for pollination crops such as berries, cherries and vegetable crops is growing. If we continue to increase our food production particularly of berries, cherries and vegetables, we have to have healthy bees to do the job.
It is amazing when you drive through the Midlands - I cannot believe how many more cherry trees have been planted.
Ms Rattray - That is as much to do with the water as anything.
Ms FORREST - You still have to have pollination; the irrigation has made a huge difference to this, but you still have to have pollination or the trees will not fruit and you need bees for pollination.
Mr Valentine - You can do it other ways but it is very long-winded way of going about it.
Ms FORREST - The bees play a really important part in all this. They are talking about our salmon industry. The $838 million salmonoid industry is Tasmania's largest single agrifood business and the GMO moratorium presents businesses within this industry with the opportunity to exploit Tasmania's brand advantage. A submission from Huon Aquaculture - a major stakeholder in this industry - supports an extension to the existing moratorium in an open letter to its customers and wholesalers. The company emphasises it does not use GM salmon stock or GM ingredients in its feed.
Tasmanian agritourism - which is again a little left-field of this, but the GMO moratorium provides marketing advantages not only to Tasmania primary produces and agribusiness, but also to our growing food service and tourism industries. Submissions from significant Tasmanian agritourism business, such as Fat Pig Farm, noted the importance of the Tasmanian brand which attracts visitors to their enterprises and highlighted that the state's GMO-free status is essential to their business models. It is much broader than just our food production. Look at the growth of agrifood businesses in this state - it is enormous and one of the growing areas of our tourism experiences.
The evidence is clearly there on page 16 of the report where there is another testimonial that basically reiterates the one from Greenhams; for example, it says -
For example CHOMPS, an American manufacturer of beef sticks marketed as 'grass‑fed' and 'non-GMO', stated that:
'We proudly call out the Non-GMO project [certification] on our consumer packaging and the certification is one of the main reasons we enjoy a rising demand for our products. If we could not source non-GMO material from Greenham, it would have a considerable impact on our business and plans for future growth. We would strongly encourage the Government to maintain the moratorium. It is a unique point of difference for all of Tasmania's natural food products'.
I do not know whose electorate this business is in, but I remember meeting with the people who run this -
The importance of Greenham's provenance story was also reinforced by one of its Tasmanian customers, beef jerky producer KOOEE! -
I do not like the product myself - I am not a jerky eater - but some people love it. They stated -
Any downgrade of the perceived quality of Greenham Tasmania meat would cause complications for KOOEE! and reduce our ability to differentiate ourselves from cheaper offerings made interstate.
This little business grew out of nothing and it has only been going a few years, but they have grown their business on the back of this.
Mr Gaffney - And now you should say, 'It's my favourite product, I really like it'.
Ms FORREST - I am sure lots of people love it. I think I have covered this -
Mrs Hiscutt - I remember the last time we had this debate I was very interested in the wine industry. Is that mentioned there?
Ms FORREST - I think it is, I just have to get to that.
The report talks about niche versus commodity markets and the value of a moratorium. This goes back to my point of us being a niche market -
The potential for GM technology to create productivity gains for large‑scale commodity products was acknowledged in submissions both for and against the moratorium. Many Tasmanian agricultural products are sold in commodity markets, as noted by CropLife Australia and Agribusiness Tasmania, where they are not differentiated no market advantage is leveraged from the State's place‑based brand. Tasmania does not have a comparative advantage in commodity markets because of its small scale and isolation from key markets, as noted in submissions from Tasmania Feedlot Pty Ltd and John Lord.
I am sure most members would know of John Lord and his experience in this area -
Therefore, it makes sense for Tasmania to focus on its market positioning as a small volume, high quality producer.
This has been reiterated through Brand Tasmania's approach - that is what they are focusing on, even though tourism approach is about that niche high-end market.
I want to go to the issue of bees and honey production. I will read a comment from page 26 about the coexistence about GM crops with honey production. It says -
Tasmania's honey industry presents unique challenges for co-existence because of the potential for pollen from GM crops to contaminate the honey stored in hives. Some submissions claimed the wind-pollinated GM crops, such as poppies and ryegrass, could coexist with non-GM honey production because they are not attractive to bees. One of these cited the poppy industry's long-term success in preventing the spread of pharmaceutical poppies beyond production areas as further evidence that GM poppy production could coexist with non-GM crops.
I am not sure that has really been proven because the poppies you see spread well beyond the areas where they were originally planted as a trial crop -
The submission from the Tasmanian Beekeepers Association, the peak body representing the State's beekeeping industry, opposed any GM crops being grown in Tasmania due to the risk of contamination from GM pollen, including from GM poppies.
It was discussed in the briefing - the member for Windermere might have raised it, too - that they do not tend to go to poppies, but if poppies are around and near where they are, they will go wherever the pollen is. For bees, when they have a fair load of pollen, it is a fair effort to get back to the hive so they are not going to go any further than they need to if they are all loaded up on their little legs.
Mr Valentine - They do actually concentrate on certain crops.
Ms FORREST - They do, yes.
Mr Valentine - The chance of them going outside may be small, but it does happen - being an ex-beekeeper.
Ms FORREST - The quote continues -
It argued that a change to the moratorium could mean that key markets in Japan, the EU and the United Arab Emirates could be lost -
As I already mentioned.
The reality is that this issue around poppies was raised extensively in the last inquiry, and it became clear that many of the advances in the poppy industry have come about through selective breeding and the techniques used by the industry without GMOs. As we talked about in the briefing, they have developed the thebaine poppies without GMOs, which now gives them that niche product in the market, and the codeine poppies that actually produce codeine without having to go through the whole process of synthesis into the final product.
They have developed these products without needing to modify them genetically. They have done it through specific breeding techniques, which some would argue is a form of genetic technology, which in a strict sense it is, but it is not. That is why I read through the definition at the beginning.
Ms Rattray - It is the Clayton's GM.
Ms FORREST - No, it is using the genes within the plant itself - selective breeding, that sort of thing. I just want to talk about what Tasmanian Alkaloids had to say. Going to GM poppies, on page 35 of the report, the submission from Tasmanian Alkaloids Pty Ltd, one of Tasmania's largest poppy processors, noted that -
... the company can continue to operate without any adverse effect on its current Tasmanian operations if the moratorium were to be extended in its current form, including the exemption for pharmaceutical poppies.
Tasmanian Alkaloids estimate that GM technologies could be used to increase alkaloid production in poppies by twenty per cent or more, compared to conventional plant breeding over a one to three year period.
They are saying that there potentially could be benefits, but they see their business not being negatively impacted.
Ms Rattray - They do say 'adverse effects on its current Tasmanian operations'. It said 'in its current form', didn't it?
Ms FORREST - Yes.
Ms Rattray - That is five years - the current form is five years.
Ms FORREST - '…were to be extended in its current form'. They are talking about the process of the extension - I do not have that act in front of me - but it requires a transition period if they change that. That is my understanding of what they are referring to.
Ms Rattray - The Leader may clarify that.
Ms FORREST - Yes, she may.
There is also the point about the use of chemicals the member for Windermere was talking about. It says on page 36 -
While several submissions opposed to the moratorium cited studies indicating that GM crops have resulted in a reduction in the use of pesticides, herbicides and fertilisers, many submissions in support of the moratorium claimed that the use of herbicide-resistant GM crops, including Roundup Ready varieties resistant to the herbicide glyphosate, has increased the use of herbicides.
They have actually increased the use -
Many submissions claimed that glyphosate is toxic, carcinogenic and/or results in adverse health outcomes, several noting recent high profile court cases against Monsanto/Bayer in the US.
There are some big payouts being made there on that issue -
Several also argued that the over‑use of herbicides in GM crop production has led to the emergence of herbicide-resistant 'super weeds'.
It is a bit like the antibiotic issue -
One even suggested that the overuse of glyphosate and GM crops leads to land degradation and Colony Collapse Disorder in bees.
We are back to the issue with bees and the importance of bees -
Among the pro-moratorium submissions, the submissions from Gene Ethics, Dr Paull and the Tasmanian Public and Environmental Health Network provided the most in-depth examination of chemical use.
Dr Paull's submission cited research indicating that glyphosate contaminates water, air, soil, plants and animals, is ingested by humans through food, beverages and other routes, is carcinogenic and can cause multi-generational disease through epigenetic effects. The submission noted that the GM Roundup Ready canola grown in Australia is dependent upon multiple applications of glyphosate.
We are not actually reducing it completely, as has been suggested. That is what I am hearing from people who grow crops like GM cotton. Yes, you might reduce the need for one particular product, such as a pesticide, but you still have to apply herbicides because of weeds and things like that. It does not remove it completely. There is the risk of superweeds developing, as superbugs with the misuse of antibiotics.
The Gene Ethics submission provided an in-depth of the current global controversy surrounding the safety of glyphosate-based herbicides, including ongoing litigation in the United States, and highlighted the potential risk to export markets if authorities in Europe or China were to impose a zero tolerance threshold for glysophate residue in imported grain. The submission warned allowing glyphosate-resistant GM canola to be grown in the State would make Tasmania more dependent on glyphosate, lead to a spike in glyphosate use, and expose Tasmania to the aforementioned risks. The submission rejected the conclusion of the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority that glyphosate does not pose a carcinogenic risk to humans and that registered glyphosate products are safe provided they are used as per the label instructions.
I understand they have rejected that claim. But when we see what is happening in the US, a whole body of pain is coming to Monsanto. It will end up here.
The other point to be used in terms of our marketing advantage, when we look at a summary of findings in this report, the 'Markets, marketing and branding' section says -
Tasmania's GMO moratorium benefits those businesses seeking to claim GMO-free status for their products but is potentially holding back investment and advancement in other business that would like the option to use gene technology.
There are swings and roundabouts here, because the industries perhaps most likely to benefit from gene technology are the big producers that operate into the commodity market. As Tasmanians, this Government does not seem to be focusing on that. We are focusing on the smaller niche markets. Then we have to weigh that against the other. There are two sides to this, I am not denying that for a second. That is why the ongoing reviews are important. We are now using that strategic advantage. While that was a criticism back in the previous committee I was on in 2008, there did not seem to be much promotion of that, but Brand Tasmania and the Government have been doing a lot of work in this space now. It is being used as a marketing tool. Back then, when we had this other inquiry, Greenhams certainly were not using it as a marketing tool. I do not know many others were, but they are now along with our honey industry.
The report says -
· It is not possible for this review to quantify the market (or marketing) advantage or disadvantages to the State of the moratorium. As observed with previous reviews on GMOs in Tasmania and more generally, quantitative evidence around the costs and benefits of maintaining Tasmania's GMO moratorium is limited beyond discrete marketing examples and product offerings.
That is always going to be the case. We found that in the previous inquiry. You do not know what you have missed out on a lot of the time, so how do you put a price on that? What can be achieved through other means, like the selective breeding and other technologies used in the poppy industry, for example.
The report continues -
There is extensive qualitative evidence around the market benefits of Tasmania's GMO-free status as one of the number of attributes that form Tasmania's broader reputation in the market.
That is worth a lot.
A full or partial move of the moratorium presents some risk to the Tasmanian Brand in the market place, due to the potential for such a change to fuel new media exposure and create a negative consumer perception.
· As a small island economy located at distance from any markets, Tasmania is disadvantaged in competing on supply-chain efficiencies.
Ask anyone who is exporting across that body of water to the north, and you will know it really is a challenge -
Lacking a competitive advantage in the commodity market, there is potential for Tasmania to capitalise on products which attract a premium price to improve marketing efficiencies.
· If the moratorium continues, the Tasmanian Government should continue to work with industry to build opportunities for the Tasmanian Brand.
This is one of the things Brand Tasmania is very focused on. If members have not read through the whole report, I encourage them to. I was looking for the section about the wine industry. So many industries in Tasmania are based in agriculture, are quite diverse and are using this as a marketing advantage. When you look at the agritourism businesses, all our fruits and vegetables, meat, beef, fish - including salmon - grains and canola have a marketing advantage because while it is not GM‑free on the mainland, it is GM-free here.
Ms Rattray - We don't grow enough here to service the market.
Ms FORREST - That is what I am saying. It is a niche product, so we can attract a premium price for it because it is a GMO-free product, so you overcome some of those disadvantages of the bit of water to the north and it is enough to make a difference. Otherwise, why would people bother? Why would people be investing? We talk about some of these little businesses like KOOEE! Snacks, because they are a small business that has invested on the basis of what we have.
There are many others, like Blue Hills Honey. They have spent an enormous amount on their facilities in Mawbanna, more recently opening up a restaurant and another tourism experience for the Circular Head region. They cannot afford to do that if their markets are not secure. To say we should only have a two- or three-year horizon on this would mean that anyone already in this area would be reluctant to invest further. Those who are thinking about coming into our state to operate with this current advantage would think twice, particularly when they can pop over the ditch to New Zealand and do it over there. We need to be careful about removing this, as the Leader said. If you remove it, it is gone and you cannot get it back.
The wine industry is another that sees the benefits. There were submissions from the $49 million wine industry which all indicated support, primarily for branding and marketing reasons. We are seeing more vineyards look at becoming organic. A lot of chemicals - I do not know why any of us would drink wine but most of do on occasion - go onto our vineyards in the process of growing grapes for wine. More and more vineyards are becoming organic. A week or two ago, I was in Adelaide for the Commonwealth Women Parliamentarians conference. I went to the McLaren Vale area; I did not drink too much wine up there, but it is amazing how many vineyards are becoming organic. You can see that the organic vineyards do not have this completely bare earth under their vines.
Ms Rattray - They've got weeds.
Ms FORREST - They have grass, but they are still producing wine and they are getting the premium price. We stayed somewhere for two nights before the conference and sat down with the owners to talk about their business. Yes, it does require more labour and work but the premium they get from it makes it absolutely worthwhile. It is something that is being promoted more often. While they can claim to be organic wines, they probably cannot claim the GMO‑free status of South Australia because it is not.
We have the beautiful natural boundary that goes around our state, being the island we are, which makes it possible to claim that and be believed. If we tried to segregate parts of the state saying this bit is GMO-free and this bit is not, we would lose that. I agree with the Government's commitment to extend the GMO moratorium for 10 years. I appreciate they will continue to monitor it and look at technological advances in markets and consumer sentiment - that is important. But I agree it is a sensible and balanced approach. I commend the Government. I hope others reject the proposed amendment put by the member for Windermere. I think this is the most appropriate approach. I commend the Government.Go Back