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GM Canola or Nothing Soon

26, April 2007

It is illegal to grow genetically modified (GM) food crops in NSW.  Cotton is exempt because it is grown mainly for fibre. 

Last year Greenpeace activists demonstrated in Newcastle as a shipment of GM canola was offloaded. 

The Australian canola crop had failed because of the drought, so Canadian canola was imported to make up the shortfall.  Most of the Canadian crop is GM.

There are bans on growing CM canola in Australia, but permission was given for the GM imports for processing as vegetable oil. 

Most of the vegetable oil consumed in Australia is made from canola.

Until late last year Australian McDonald’s restaurants which had previously proudly advertise that it cooked its food in Australian canola oil, announced it was changing from standard canola.

This wasn’t because of the Canadian GM imports, but rather it was switching to new oil blends with much less trans-fatty acids.

At about the same time, New York city banned the use of all trans-fat oils in all restaurants from July this year.  

KFC and McDonald’s announced they would stop using any trans-fats in all their Canadian and USA restaurants.

Oils high in trans-fats are claimed to increase the risk of heart disease, hence the move from canola in Europe and the US to oils with a low linolenic acid profile, including new GM soybean varieties.

Not to be out done, Canadian growers are now planting low trans-fat varieties.  The low trans-fat trait is not GM, but it is combined with other traits which are GM to produce a high yielding, low trans-fat GM variety.  

These new varieties could not be grown here because we have bans on the growing of GM food crops in every state except Queensland – and it’s too hot to grow canola there.

The moratorium on GM food crops is up for renewal next year in both NSW and Victoria, and if the bans are not lifted I can’t really see much of a future for the Australian canola industry.
The bans should be lifted, but Greenpeace has already started lobbying for the moratoriums to stay in place.  

The Network of Concerned Farmers will no doubt also be there spreading a fear of this proven technology. 

Politics is increasingly trumping good economics when it comes to Australian agriculture, giving our competitors a big agronomic and now marketing advantage. 

Indeed last year we imported a product, GM canola, that our farmers are banned from growing and now we are looking at losing markets to GM varieties with superior nutrition value – again because State governments have banned our farmers from growing GM crop varieties.

by AEF Director, Dr Jennifer Marohasy, first published in The Land on 26th April 2007.


Published in The Land

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