McLaren Vale vineyard

Published on 03 November 2020

Onkaparinga’s application for GM-free status denied

Primary Industries Minister David Basham has denied Onkaparinga’s application to be designated a non-GM crop area, risking the reputation and viability of the world-class McLaren Vale wine region.

“This decision simply doesn’t add up,” said City of Onkaparinga Mayor Erin Thompson.

“The minister gave us one opportunity to engage with our industry representatives about this matter and we did so in good faith.

“We listened to our growers and they told us about the measurable impact this decision would have, but this has fallen on deaf ears and the implications are deeply concerning.

“The minister has now put at risk more than $20 million annually in crop value. On the back of COVID-19 and further export challenges currently being faced by our wine industry, this is a huge kick in the guts,” she said.

Mayor Thompson highlighted that McLaren Vale was unique in that 37 per cent of the region’s local vineyards are certified organic and biodynamic, compared to four per cent nationally.

“Our growers have invested heavily to achieve this certification and collectively contribute to the region’s clean and green reputation, which is demonstrably important to international wine markets.

“Now, all of this hard work, prior investment and anticipated future income has been jeopardised because the Minister has not listened to advice of those who live and breathe the wine industry and know their markets and products better than anyone.

McLaren Vale Grape Wine and Tourism Association CEO Jennifer Lynch said the association and its 550 members were also disappointed with minister’s decision.

“We believe the request from the City of Onkaparinga and McLaren Vale, as well as the requests from many of our state’s other multi-million dollar wine regions, presented a unique opportunity for the newly appointed Minister for Agriculture to demonstrate the government’s continued support of South Australia’s billion-dollar grape and wine industries.

“This was also an opportunity to strike a balance for the benefit of our grain producers, particularly for those in drought-affected areas where the opportunity to grow GM crops may produce more economical yields.

Agriculture requires unique farming systems depending upon the type of crop and region – a one-size-fits-all approach to agricultural legislation and policy development is unrealistic in 2020,” Ms Lynch said.

The City of Onkaparinga is calling on the Minister to reveal the reasons behind his decision, and be prepared to answer questions from those who stand to lose from it.

“What our local wine industry wants to know is what will the Minister do if his decision leads to cancelled contracts?, said Mayor Thompson.

“What will the Minister do if the reputation of McLaren Vale is damaged as a result of his decision, resulting in lost international markets and revenue?

“What is most baffling about this decision is that is flies in the face of the state government’s own Food, Wine and Agribusiness Plan for Growth, which outlines an ambitious target of growing the industry to $23 billion by 2030.

Mayor Thompson said the council would now explore all available options to seek a reversal of the decision.

“We stand behind the evidence provided by our local producers and growers that this outcome is bad for trade and exports, bad for international reputation, and bad for South Australia,” Mayor Thompson said.