WA green-lights GM canola

Posted by Nicole Eckersley on 16th March 2010

Western Australian farmers will now be able to plant genetically modified canola crops, after a disallowance motion by the Western Australian Labor Opposition failed last week.

CanolaThe hotly-debated motion was opposed by WA Labor and Greens, and attended by protesters and lobby groups from both sides. Two Liberal Members, South Perth MLA John McGrath and Southern River MLA Peter Abetz, threatened to cross the floor after pressure from their electorates over health and safety concerns. Mr Abetz identified his number one issue: “Is it safe?”

After discussions with the Premier, Mr McGrath abstained and Mr Abetz voted with the government, but along with Shadow Agriculture Minister Mick Murray, they were successful in obtaining a number of concessions, including:

  • Establishment of a record of GM growers
  • The GM Stewardship program to be randomly audited by the Agriculture Department, with results presented to parliament at the end of the growing season
  • A letter to be issued to GM growers, detailing rights and responsibilities, from the Agriculture Minister.

The GM canola being trialled in WA is patented by Monsanto, and according to GetFarming Australia, an estimated 200 tonnes of GM seed has been ordered, translating to 30,000 hectares to be planted this season. The first crops of Roundup Ready® canola were trialled in WA in May last year. Controversy arose after an unidentified whistleblower, speaking to the Network of Concerned Farmers, said that the WA Department of Agriculture had ‘virtually given’ government intellectual property on canola breeding to Monsanto, and then denied that the research had taken place at all.

WA Agriculture Minister Terry Redman said he was pleased the motion was defeated. “Farmers who choose to plant GM canola this season can do so with confidence,” said Mr Redman. “The trials proved GM and non-GM canola can be segregated and marketed separately and we believe it could provide another tool to help farmers remain profitable and competitive.”