GM canola backs out of Australia

By Richard Black
BBC science correspondent

The biotechnology company Monsanto is withdrawing plans to grow genetically modified canola (oilseed rape) in Australia.

The company says that recent legislation prohibiting the use of GM crops means further investment is unjustified.

The news comes just two days after Monsanto announced it was withdrawing its GM wheat globally.

In Australia, GM crops have received a mixed reception.

Although the Australian federal government supports GM agriculture, the governments of Australian states oppose it.

Most have either banned GM crops outright or imposed moratoria. Monsanto says that in this legislative environment, it is not worth proceeding with GM canola.

Financially unattractive

Monsanto Australia's Communications manager, Mark Buckingham, says restrictions on GM trials in many states have made their GM plans financially unattractive.

"The international success of biotech crops continues to grow, with 15% growth last year in the area of crops with GM traits around the world," he told Australia's ABC network.

"So the opportunities are there, but unfortunately the uncertainty around canola in Australia has meant it's not an attractive business opportunity in comparison to those other business opportunities."

Farmers and exporters are split on the issue.

The Grains Council of Australia, the main trade body for growers, says an important opportunity is being missed.

But some farmers have warned that growing GM canola would compromise exports to Europe, where consumers and therefore importers are looking for GM-free products.

Canola exports earn Australia just under half a billion US dollars annually.

There have also been concerns about gene transfer from canola to wild relatives, leading to the growth of herbicide-resistant "superweeds".


Informant: Teresa Binstock


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