AFTER years of largely empty rhetorical battles between pro and anti GM campaigners, the shadow boxing is one step closer to being over, with the news that WA farmers will be able to plant GM canola next season.
South Australia remains the only major canola producing state with a moratorium against growing GM, and it will be interesting to see if this proves an advantage or disadvantage in terms of marketing the crop, one of the major arguments of anti-GM campaigners.
Most of the growers who have grown GM canola commercially in Victoria and NSW thus far have been positive about the technology, but the rider on this is that these farmers include most of those most passionate about introducing the technology.
Will this same approval extend to others less keen to use the relatively costly Roundup Ready (RR) products?
It is going to depend on what growers get from the product.
On the plus side, farmers have said that it has given them more flexibility, in particular, the ability to plant earlier, which proved a crucial advantage in many parts of Victoria.
However, on the flip side, there's the higher costs and lower sale prices associated with growing RR canola.
The interference in terms of what will happen in terms of markets and pricing for GM canola mean it is very difficult to offer an accurate forecast, but it would appear that Europe, in particular, will remain a tough ask for GM producers.
With WA supplying a lot of canola in recent years into Europe, will its oilseed producers be prepared to forsake these markets for the sake of a more efficient rotation and the other advantages of RR?
The other major issue will be in terms of segregating GM and non-GM product, with just under 85pc of the nation’s canola now produced by the three states where it is legal to grow GM, according to the latest Australian Oilseeds Federation (AOF) figures.
The bulk handlers will have to work to ensure contamination levels remain below industry standard levels.
Growers producing non-GM canola will be looking to leverage premiums available and will not want their product contaminated.
The decision is a good one, providing choice to growers, but with the decision, comes responsibility to ensure non-GM producers can continue to grow and market their product with the same freedom.