GM plantings row

26 Apr, 2012 02:00 AM

DESPITE a combination of high canola prices and an aggressive marketing strategy, GM canola plantings are likely to only increase slightly in Australia in 2012.

Monsanto spokesperson Keryn McLean said the company expected around 175,000 hectares of GM canola to be grown this year, which compares to Australian Oilseeds Federation (AOF) estimates of 164,000ha of GM planted in 2011.

However, Ms McLean said the final figure was subject to change during the seeding period. With more interest in canola due to high prices, total GM plantings may increase slightly as part of that.

AOF executive officer Nick Goddard said last year’s GM plantings represented around 9pc of total plantings.

This year’s figures will be around the same, given the projected increase in plantings.

However, Mr Goddard said GM canola does appear to have found a niche in Western Australia, where plantings are likely to increase by more than the national average.

Western Australia’s cropping systems and herbicide limitations, with extensive herbicide resistance to Group A and Group B herbicides have meant Roundup Ready canola has been more popular there than on the east coast.

On the eastern seaboard growers have other treatment options and continue to get good service out of Clearfield and Triazine Tolerant (TT) varieties.

Gene Ethics director Bob Phelps said the figures showed Australian growers were rejecting GM.

"Global crop seed and agrichemical giant Monsanto is scrambling to find a market for its genetically manipulated (GM) seed that few will grow and no-one wants to eat," says Gene Ethics Director, Bob Phelps.

He pointed to a deal done by seed company Canola Breders in WA, offering a 25pc discount on the GM variety Eclipse.

However, commercial director at Canola Breeders David Strong said it was not a case of a fire sale on GM canola seed, but rather an attempt to gain some market share in the competitive canola seed market.

“With canola prices high and many growers looking to go in with an extra paddock to take advantage of this, we thought we’d go in with a sales promotion.

“We’re certainly not struggling to sell GM varieties, but we did have excess seed of this particular variety and we like to try and turn the seed over each year.

“Competition between seed companies is quite high, and we thought that by bringing GM varieties basically back to the cost of conventional hybrids, we would attract some business.”

Along with competition from other seed companies, Mr Strong said the industry was also expecting large acreages to be planted with farmer stored seed.

“Hybrids are performing well, and farmers are seeing the advantages in terms of yield, but it is more expensive, so those looking to cut upfront costs will use stored seed.”

GM seed generally sells for about $30/kg and hybrids for around $24/kg.

Meanwhile, GM growers in NSW can also take advantage of a pilot marketing scheme, where growers can lock in at just $10/t below conventional canola prices.

Spreads between GM and conventional canola have been out as wide as $50/t, especially when Europe is the major buyer, with the Europeans not wanting GM.

AWB is offering the Roundup Ready canola contract for farmers delivering to Gilgandra and Newcastle, where its parent company Cargill has a crushing plant.

“The contract will provide oil exclusively for Asian markets,” said AWB spokesman Peter McBride.

“It’s a similar product to our sustainable canola contracts, which are for dedicated European export, it’s all about linking our grower customers and our end-user customers.”

Mr Phelps said Monsanto was helping to promote the contract in NSW in a bid to attract GM acreage.

Ms McLean confirmed letters had been sent out to NSW GM canola growers, saying the company often sent out information it thought might be useful to growers.

However, Mr Phelps said he felt Monsanto was fighting a losing battle trying to win over farmers on the east coast.

He quoted Birchip Cropping Group trial data from Victoria that showed GM varieties’ gross margins did not stack up with top-performing conventional hybrid lines.

Ms McLean said this was more to do with the variety itself, rather than the Roundup Ready trait.

“New varieties are hitting the market all the time, and we expect some of the new GM lines to perform very well.”

However, Mr Phelps said the added costs, in terms of technology fees, brand-name herbicides and added freight costs would make it hard for GM lines to compete.

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26/04/2012 3:51:06 AM

Think GM crops and you think chemicals, politics and lawsuits. More legal action is looming. This time over GM crops that you can douse with 2,4-D (a key compound in Agent Orange): 2012/04/19/ Why would a farmer step into this minefield when they could just be a farmer who grows food?
26/04/2012 9:06:40 AM

High canola prices? Where? $530 today for high risk vs. $750 in 2010. And those prices are for non-GM. GM canola is $30 less per tonne than these insulting prices.
26/04/2012 11:34:58 AM

Alice, please don't try to tarnish 2,4,-D by making the emotional association with agent orange. 2,4, D is one of the least dangerous of all herbicides. The worry with agent orange was its content of dioxin, a harmful chemical not in modern 2,4,D formulations. This device of guilt by association is so typical of the anti-GM crew who are so casual with the facts when they are after an impact for their cause.
26/04/2012 4:41:25 PM

GM proponents need to look at the stench of deceit & corruption that permeates the patenting process of GM. Who benefits from this insidious technology? Certainly not the farmer - some may think they’ve solving one problem but they’ll soon find their problem multiplies exponentially. Those who foolishly argue the safety of GM and other toxic chemicals, including 2-4-D, need to quench their thirst with some of their "??safe??” chemical/s. GM will sooner or later bring down those countries naïvely embracing this sinister technology. GM risks contaminating Australia’s image & valuable markets.
26/04/2012 4:44:00 PM

Jeffito and Alice, Just to clarify what agent orange was, here is a quote from Wickipedia. "Agent Orange is the code name for one of the herbicides and defoliants used by the U.S. military as part of its herbicidal warfare program, Operation Ranch Hand, during the Vietnam War from 1961 to 1971. It was given its name from the color of the orange-striped 55 US gallon (208 litre) barrels in which it was shipped, and was by far the most widely used of the so-called "Rainbow Herbicides".[1] A 50:50 mixture of 2,4,5-T and 2,4-D, it was manufactured for the U.S. Department of Defense primarily by Mon
27/04/2012 8:04:46 AM

Trugger, perhaps you exceded the word limit? Anyway the bit you left off your wikipedia quote was exactly my point " The 2,4,5-T used to produce Agent Orange was later discovered to be contaminated with 2,3,7,8-tetrachlorodibenzodioxin, an extremely toxic dioxin compound." The US army bought the El Cheapo brand of herbicide! And what a nasty suggestion from GGwagga that those not agreeing with him should drink herbicide.
David Harrison
27/04/2012 8:35:06 AM

Isn't any system that allows the increased use of chemicals, "however safe they might be", detrimental to the long term health and wellbeing of the consumer and the environment? Surely less is more.
Bob Phelps
27/04/2012 3:44:41 PM

Monsanto backs GM canola seed freebies. Birchip Cropping’s analysis says farmers lose $150/ha on GM, with higher seed, chemical and transport costs (Aust Farm Journal, April 2012). Birchip found similar yields and oil content for GM and non-GM. Monsanto & Cargill jointly promote GM globally. AWB (now Cargill) used Monsanto's letterhead to tell NSW farmers the GM canola discount is capped at $10/tonne, though CBH and Viterra’s GM discount is $40/tonne. In WA, the ad for a 1 for 3 deal on GM canola seed has Monsanto's Roundup Ready logo. Monsanto hijacks farmers onto its GM treadmill.
Jack Hayes
27/04/2012 4:23:10 PM

Good reference to Wikipedia! That is a very trustworthy source....not
28/04/2012 7:46:29 PM

Jeffito, it is plain & simple, chemical companies promoting their GM crops to promote their own chemicals. Why not cut costs, forget the GM crops that you can't sell anyway, and just spray the chemicals directly. Probably can then use less as you haven't got the crop in the way masking the weeds. You 'd also save on transport costs, water, fertilizer, fuel etc. Clean fields cheaper! OK that's the chemicals done with. Jeffito, what have you got to say about the politics and lawsuits?
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