Time to make a GM decision where it counts

So it's finally here.

After years of debate, the first plantings of GM canola in Australia are just weeks away.

Now that it has been decided by the Victorian government that GM canola is safe to grow and to consume, farmers will face another debate - one much closer to home – will I make a quid out of it, and is it worth the hassle?

The benefits of the Roundup Ready variety that Monsanto has released on a small scale this year have been well documented by proponents of the technology – simple, cheap weed control, greater rotational flexibility and ability to sow on time and control in-crop weeds with a cheap herbicide.

Now growers have to weigh up whether these pros will outweigh the added costs: high seed prices (although not greatly more than some of the current hybrid canolas available), stewardship and technology fees.

On top of this, there will be other costs, such as higher planting and transport costs, due to the need for greater machinery hygiene and the risk of liability.

At present, Monsanto is telling growers that compensation for contamination in adjacent canola crops will only occur above industry agreed adventitious presence (AP) levels of 0.9pc.

The figures shown by Monsanto show this is unlikely should farmers follow the protocol for planting Roundup Ready correctly.

However, the anti-GM lobby is still fiercely campaigning against AP levels – saying that there is a premium for non-GM canola and that non-GM means canola without any traces of GM material.

There have not been any test cases to see what will happen should there be contamination – it could well be that the industry standard on AP levels is upheld, but it is another unknown for farmers.

At a GM accreditation day last week, it was heard that insurance is available for producers of GM canola, so that may dilute some of the risk, but the issue is there.

However, on the bright side, the technology is out in the open and farmers will now get a clear look at whether it lives up to the hype.

Should it work in Australian conditions and farmers find avenues to market for the grain, which does not appear to have been a problem for others, it is likely there will be a high uptake rate of GM canola.

If it flops, it is unlikely to meet with much enthusiasm – and that's how it should be.

What do you think?

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READER COMMENTS

stopmonsanto
17/04/2008 10:27:37 AM

Genetically engineered foods are Poison! Consumers are opposed to genetically engineered foods!! It is wrong to Force GMO on consumers!!
monsanto madness
17/04/2008 3:08:49 PM

I agree with "stopmonsanto". This consumer and extended family will not be buying products with GM canola in them if in a democracy we are given the opportunity to know what we are buying! When, and only when independent trials are allowed to be carried out and longitudinal studies are allowed to be made will consumers and growers alike have the full facts and be able to make an informed choice.
vee_ate
18/04/2008 5:09:51 AM

I'm a farmer, and from a business point of view I don't see the point of growing GM grops especially roundup ready. 1. Same to lower yields = same to lower income. 2. Less market acceptance = lower income. 3. Same reliance on fertilizer and fuel = same input cost (our highest input cost by far) 4. Using roundup once or twice to cleanup weeds in crop = slightly lower input costs (Spraying in crop is not that high an input cost compared to others like fertilizer and fuel) 5. More expensive seed = higher input cost 6. More expensive chemicals to clean up between crops = higher input cost (What chemical are we going to use to cleanup weeds & roundup ready canola/wheat between crops?) Summary: Lower income + higher input costs = poor business decision!
Silverhawk
18/04/2008 5:29:48 AM

Some people will never be convinced - let's just leave it to consumers to decide. And there is after all a pretty extensive regulatory regime in place.
Stockman72
20/04/2008 7:51:24 PM

Urgent, please go to the following link. I urge also that the editors of this newspaper check out this link and publicize the existence of this documentary. Monsanto has an ongoing agenda that should frighten the hell out the Australian people. Don't take my word for it. Take the time to view this documentary, our agriculture industries will depend on this information reach each and every Australian, farmer & citizen alike! http://video.google.com/videoplay ?docid=-842180934463681887
EJ
21/04/2008 10:14:43 AM

Over 50,000 tonnes of GM canola was imported into Australia last year and was utilised in domestic inudstry. Every year, some 500,000 tonnes of soybean meal is imported into Australia with no market issues. Half the soya beans grown in the world are GM...we are all eating GM foods and have been for years. Many processed foods in the Australia, such as biscuits, cooking sauces, and food coatings, will include GM ingredients at a very low level if they use soya or maize as an ingredient. The same will be true for products imported from countries growing GM soya or maize. So, unless an individual's diet contains no processed foods, they are likely to be eating at least some GM or 'GM-derived' food, even if this is only at a low level. If they have travelled to one of the countries that grow GM crops in the past few years, especially the USA and Canada, it is very likely that they will have eaten food that contains GM material or is derived from it. All these people eating GM and I still haven't seen any two headed people running around...but then again - seeing most of the people kicking up stink over GM are vego hippie animal lovers, perhaps there is an argument that GM foods are bad...they certainly do eat a lot of GM soy products... Now that should create some lively conversation!
Ordinary Everybody
21/04/2008 10:21:32 AM

whilst there may be some initial advantages for farmers, they must think of the long term. large organisations like Monsanto live on and on, not so farmer. You may make the profits now, but your sons and daugheters will pay big time when there is no other seed to be had other than what you purchase from these companies at the price they determine. They will turn seed into a repeat business like you have never seen before. This, not to mention the lack of research into potential long-term health issues are reason enough not to take that track. I for one will NOT buy/use GM food.
Stockman72
21/04/2008 12:42:00 PM

EJ obviously hasn't watched "The World According To Monsanto". I am no 'vego hippie animal lover' but I am not a sheeple either. Like Ordinary Everybody, I now understand the consequences of what lies ahead if this country fails to head the warnings set out so clearly in the above mentioned doco. Then again 'ej' could very well be a Monsanto shill. Sure knows how to talk the talk!!
Stockman72
21/04/2008 2:43:34 PM

Here is the link again. I implore every reader of to view this well researched documentary. http://video.google.com/videoplay ?docid=-842180934463681887
Andy
21/04/2008 6:06:14 PM

Let the market decide.
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