For those trying to establish GE-free zones, legal, logistical and economic considerations need to be discussed. For example:
- How would councils administer and enforce such a zone?
- Would the council need to construct testing centres at major entry points to the shire to assess transport vehicles carrying grain, and agricultural machinery travelling through the shire?
- How would the establishment of such a zone be communicated to local citizens, transport carriers and tourists?
- If a GM crop, grain or seed were found within the council area, how would this be handled?
- What cost would be involved in establishing and maintaining such a zone?
- What impact would such a zone have on farming within the shire or on shire boundaries?
Establishing a zone free of GM crops has the potential to impose considerable economic costs. An independent report, commissioned by Avcare, estimated the cost of maintaining such a zone at $2,260,250 per annum - which included staff, infra- structure, testing equipment, communication and advertising, legal costs, and quality assurance programs for farms. Of course, such a zone may also impact on issues beyond the shire. For example, if trucks carrying GM grain are required to travel around the shire or zone, this may impact on surrounding roads and cause them to deteriorate.
Ultimately, decision-making responsibility for GM crops is in the hands of the Office of the Gene Technology Regulator (OGTR). Under the federal gene technology legislation, an opportunity does exist for areas within a state to be designated GE-free for preserving the identity of non-GM crops for marketing purposes - depending on state regulations and also dependent on areas being able to provide evidence to support their claim of a market advantage from growing and producing non-GM and GM-free products.
Resource:www.ataa.com.auGM-Free Zones (Factsheet 16)