Survey of Canadian GM canola experience

CONSIDERABLE DEBATE has taken place over the Canadian experience with GM crops, particularly GM canola. An excellent source of information is the Canola Council of Canada. In 2000, the Canola Council of Canada commissioned a survey of 650 canola growers based in western Canada. The study, entitled An Agronomic and Economic Assessment of Transgenic Canola, was commissioned to qualify and quantify the agronomic and economic impacts of GM canola. The following provides a snapshot of the growers' comments.

The study included both GM and non-GM canol a varieties. The GM varieties were all herbicide-tolerant. The growers were surveyed on their attitudes, production practices and production costs. Half of the growers answered questions on their GM varieties, and the other half answered questions on their conventional canola crops. In addition, 13 case studies were conducted with growers who grew both GM and non-GM varieties to provide information on production costs.

In 2000, over 80 per cent of growers chose transgenic or GM varieties and planted them on approximately 55 per cent of the 4.S million hectares in Canada.

Weed management key to Canadian acceptance

The survey showed that the key benefit and motivator for growing GM canola was more efficient weed control, as well as ease of herbicide management in preventing weed resistance. Other reasons, related to weed management, included cleaning up their paddocks, reducing the number of passes to weed control, and improved perennial weed control. The GM growers also noted that, due to the ability to control weeds in fields, their rotations were more flexible.

Some producers also reported better yields, higher returns and the ability to reduce costs and generate more profit. Other reasons for choosing GM varieties were to reduce tillage, seed earlier, conserve moisture and to compare transgenic varieties to conventional canol a on a trial basis.

Over SO per cent of GM growers said that weed control was more effective. In terms of managing volunteer canola, 76 per cent of GM growers said it was the same or easier compared to conventional canola.

In terms of yields, on average, GM growers resulted in a 10 per cent yield advantage over conventional growers in 2000. It is noted that this could be the result of several factors including higher-yielding varieties, earlier seeding and better weed control.

Other survey results showed GM growers reduced tillage, fuel costs and herbicide use.

Reasons for not growing GM canola

Those who chose not to grow GM canola did so for a number of reasons. The most common were costs related to Technology User Agreements and the overall costs of GM varieties in the system. Growers were also concerned with market access for their crop, weed resistance and health-related issues.

Reasons growers chose GM canola varieties

  • 50 per cent - easier and better weed control in general
  • 19 per cent - better yield, better return, more profit
  • 18 per cent - for grassy weed control specifically
  • 15 per cent - for broadleaf weed control specifically
  • 10 per cent - to reduce costs
  • 9 per cent - trial basis to compare to conventional varieties
  • 7 per cent - to clean up fields

Source: Canola Council of Canada - www.canola-council.org