Aerial view of McLaren Vale

Published on 16 September 2020

City of Onkaparinga set to apply for non-GM crop area designation

The City of Onkaparinga will apply to the Minister for Primary Industries for its entire area – including the famed McLaren Vale wine region – to be designated a non-GM crop area following a landmark Council decision last night.

Onkaparinga Mayor Erin Thompson said the decision came after a rigorous process, paving the way to protecting organic and biodynamic vineyards from a potential annual loss of $20.8 million.

“We listened carefully to our industry and community, and believe the evidence clearly shows it’s in our city’s best interest to make this application,” Mayor Thompson said.

“Industry knows its business best, and the McLaren Vale wine industry has told us they want the region to be GM free. Marketing is about many things, including perception. Why change how this region is perceived, and put valuable export markets at risk in the process?”

“Being designated a non-GM crop area would mean our region could keep doing what it does best – producing world-renowned wine that comes with a clean, green and sustainable reputation, and bringing in millions of export dollars to the state.”

This debate was the culmination of a process triggered by state government legislation that lifted the moratorium (ban) on the growing of GM crops in South Australia.

Last night’s decision followed an elected member workshop where people and industry organisations in favour of and opposed to the growing of GM crops in the region had opportunities to detail their positions.

Mayor Thompson said the workshop and industry, business and community engagement were part of an in-depth, balanced and robust process.

“We set out on this process with only one aim – to be a conduit to government for our community’s voice on this question,” Mayor Thompson said.

“The legislation was very specific that we had to consult with business and industry – particularly the primary producers and food manufacturing sectors, our key stakeholders in this engagement.

“These sectors, along with the general community, were clearly in favour of applying for designation, as it became clear our region had more to lose from allowing GM crops than it would gain.”

Submissions from peak bodies such as the McLaren Vale Wine Grape Tourism Association showed that on the balance, relevant businesses – particularly certified organic/biodynamic vineyards and wineries, comprising 37 per cent of all grape crops – in our city would stand to lose more than they’d gain from the impact of GM crops on the actual and potential export value of their product.

Evidence provided by four wineries in McLaren Vale shows $5.1 million of annual export value would be at immediate risk for those wineries alone. Modelling on the potential impact of GM crops on the 37 per cent of organic/biodynamic vineyards shows a potential annual loss of $20.8 million for the region.

In response to the question “Should the City of Onkaparinga apply to the Minister to be designated a GM crop free area?” key stakeholders answered 70 per cent yes and 30 per cent no. The answer was even more certain among the general community, with 80 per cent saying yes and 20 per cent saying no. Critically, 73 per cent of key stakeholders supporting designation cited ‘trade and marketing’ reasons for their choice.

“McLaren Vale is one of the most famous and marketable wine regions in the world, with a strong market focus on being clean, green and sustainable,” Mayor Thompson said.

“The state government’s approach to lifting the state-wide moratorium allows for the reality that different regions of the state may require different approaches. Those areas that can benefit from GM technology certainly should, but we argue that our region has more to lose.

“We support the government in saying that one size does not fit all, as it has demonstrated by maintaining the moratorium on GM for Kangaroo Island.

“We will now write to Minister Basham and respectfully ask that he accept the will of industry, business and community.

“We trust he will now use his legislative power to protect McLaren Vale’s international reputation and its vital economic contribution to the state.”


An aerial view of McLaren Vale.