GM canola seed sales fall amid repeal push

Brad ThompsonCountryman
GM canola seed sales have fallen 10 per cent in WA this year.
Camera IconGM canola seed sales have fallen 10 per cent in WA this year. Credit: Countryman

Sales of genetically modified canola seed in WA have plunged in the face of the significantly lower prices the crops it produces fetch on world markets.

The fall of about 10 per cent in seed sales to 700 tonnes for this growing season comes as the State Government prepares to scrap laws giving it the power to halt production of GM crops.

The result is a blow for Monsanto, which had enjoyed rapid sales growth in its Roundup Ready canola varieties in WA in recent years. Sales grew by 53 per cent to 639 tonnes in 2014 and by 20 per cent to a record 776 tonnes last year.

Monsanto said the area planted with GM seed had increased by one per cent to 346,000ha despite the drop in seed sales. Monsanto managing director Tony May said 720 farmers were using the technology despite tough market conditions.

He said growers had reduced seeding rates on their paddocks and were using the technology strategically in crop rotation and weed management regimes.

“The price differential may have swayed some planting decisions,” Mr May said.

“Obviously, sales couldn’t keep growing like they have been for ever.

“It gets to a point where it has to fit as part of weed management systems.”

Growers pay a premium for GM canola seed and the harvested crop generally sells for about $50/tonne less than non-GM canola. However, that price differential was much wider at times over the past 12 months.

WAFarmers president Tony York said top agronomists had urged farmers to consider carefully the economic benefits or otherwise of using GM canola.

Mr York said it could cost up to $80/ha more to plant GM canola and the Monsanto product also faced competition from new hybrid varieties.

“There is definitely a niche for GM canola but it is not for everyone,” he said.

The Government is expected to ram through the GM Crops Free Areas Repeal Bill when Parliament resumes. Labor had vowed to use the existing laws to stop the growing of GM canola if it won the election next March.

Mr York said the rush to repeal the laws was not just about GM canola, but making sure WA growers could take advantage of future advances in gene technology approved by the Commonwealth regulator.

Monsanto has had new canola technology known as TruFlex approved for use in Australia, but is holding back the release pending approval in key export markets, including China.

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