GENE Ethics Director Bob Phelps has warned that “a dark deregulatory cloud” hangs over GM-free regions, such as Tasmania, South Australia, the ACT and the Northern Territory.

He congratulated the Tasmanian Government on staying GM-free for another decade, till 2029, but said that deregulation of CRISPR SDN-1 “is CropLife’s Trojan horse for an end to all GM-free in Australia”.

Currently, Tasmanian food, farms and fibre continue to reap the benefits of premium GM-free markets but, said Mr Phelps, “new CRISPR GM animals, plants and microbes could be made, grown and sold without any public or official notice or regulation.

Moratorium on GMOs

“We strongly refute Tasmanian Minister Barnett’s claim that a proposed federal deregulation: ‘in no way impacts on Tasmania’s ability to have a moratorium on GMOs.’

“All Genetic Manipulation (GM) processes and products are now required to be notified to the Gene Technology Regulator for assessment, regulation and licensing.

“But the federal government is gutting the GM regulations to allow a whole class of new CRISPR GM techniques (SDN-1) to fly under our regulator’s radar.”

Mr Phelps said that although the Greens in the Senate have moved to disallow this deregulation, the ALP and the cross-bench must also support the disallowance for it to pass.

SDN1 not regulated

Minister for Primary Industries & Water in Tasmania, Guy Barnett, said Tasmania had been “well served by the moratorium on the commercial release of genetically modified organisms to the environment since it was introduced in 2001.

“The benefits of maintaining the GMO moratorium in Tasmania still greatly outweigh the risks of any benefits from ending the moratorium,” he said.

But Mr Barnett confirmed that SDN1 will not be regulated as a GMO because “organisms modified using this technique pose the same risk as, and are indistinguishable from, organisms carrying naturally occurring genetic changes.

“This federal regulation in no way impacts on Tasmania’s ability to have a moratorium on GMOs,” he said.

Mr Phelps disagrees saying, “All GM processes and products must continue to be regulated so the states and their GM-free producers can fully gain the advantage of being GM-free.

“If states grow and export unregulated or unapproved GM food and commodities, key EU and Asian markets are sure to reject them. This will cost the GM-free states and their producers tens of millions of dollars and tarnish their high reputation.”