Grains Research and Development

Date: 16.01.2017

WA loosens the GM ropes

Author: Gio Braidotti

The Western Australian Government has passed the Genetically Modified Crops Free Areas Repeal Bill 2015 that removes the requirement on WA grain growers to seek permission from the state government before growing genetically modified (GM) canola and cotton.

Previously, an act banning GM crops from WA was in force from 2003. That ban was modified in 2010 to grant an exemption for WA growers to commercially plant GM canola. Since 2010, the state has become the biggest producer of GM canola, using exclusively Roundup Ready® varieties released by Monsanto to produce more than 30 per cent of WA’s total canola crop (about 337,000 hectares in 2015), with the GM share of production increasing.

The state segregates, samples and tests its GM and non-GM canola consignments and while both are sold to international markets, such as Japan and Europe, non-GM canola attracted a ‘non-GM price premium’ worth about $60/tonne in 2015.

Former Agriculture and Food Minister Ken Baston said the new regulatory regime means that once a GM crop is deemed safe by federal regulators, grain growers have a choice to plant the crops that most suit their production system.

“The Western Australian grains industry is now sufficiently mature to manage its international markets without the intervention of government,” he told The Weekly Times newspaper in August.

The Grain Industry Association of WA Inc (GIWA) welcomed the news, having argued in previous years that the state’s GM crop legislation was an example of regulation that inhibited the WA grains sector’s competitiveness and profitability.

GIWA’s position is that “co-existence of technologies ensures growers and consumers can exercise their choice to respectively use new production technologies and make consumption choices”.

GIWA Oilseeds Council chair Michael Lamond says the Repeal Bill gives growers choice on the type of canola they can now grow, and gives canola breeders the confidence to continue to breed high-yielding canola varieties for WA in the future.

More information:

Larissa Taylor, GIWA,
08 6262 2128,
ltaylor@giwa.org.au

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