Monsanto props up weak GM crop price in Australia

Monsanto props up weak GM crop price in Australia

The Australian 23 April 2012, p. 7 — GLOBAL grain buyers are marking down the price of Australia’s genetically modified canola as the European market shuts the gate on GM crops.

The Australian Wheat Board is offering to buy up supplies of GM canola at guaranteed prices. Global agribusiness giant Monsanto which produces “Roundup Ready” canola, genetically modified to survive sprayings by its trademarked weed killer has told GM canola farmers they will lose no more than $10 a tonne for product delivered to agricultural company Cargill’s crush facility at Newcastle by June 29.

“AWB would like to offer you some certainty when marketing your Roundup Ready canola crop by offering you the opportunity to fix the varietal price spread between the price of Roundup Ready canola and non-GM canola,” the head of Monsanto’s Australian operations, Daniel Kruithoff, says in a letter to farmers.

“AWB will guarantee that the varietal grade spread of Roundup Ready canola is no more than $10 a metric tonne discount to non-GM canola.”

Global agribusiness Viterra is paying a $45 a tonne premium for standard canola in Western Australia 8 per cent more than for the GM herbicide-resistant canola, which was introduced to Australia eight years ago.

The nation’s biggest cooperative WA grain growers’ giant CBH Group is paying $40 to $45 a tonne less for GM canola, a 6 per cent markdown.

CBH Grains protein and oilseeds marketing manager Peter Elliott said yesterday Europe wanted to buy Australian canola, but would not accept GM product.

“Europe doesn’t have enough feedstock, which increases the demand for Australian canola,” Mr Elliott said. “But in Europe, GM is not acceptable.” Glycerol, a by-product of biofuel production from canola, is used in cosmetics.

“All the major cosmetics companies have non-GMO policies,” Mr Elliott said.

“The upshot is that Australia is one of the few places with large non-GM canola production, so there’s a big premium paid for non-GM into Europe.” Gene Ethics director Bob Phelps said yesterday the economics of GM Canola did not add up. Japanese buying co-operatives had expressed alarm about the potential contamination of Australian canola supplies by GM canola, he said.

State laws permit GM canola to be grown in Western Australia, Victoria, NSW and Queensland, but not in South Australia, Tasmania, the ACT and the Northern Territory.

Ten per cent of WA’s canola crop is now genetically modified.

Bayer CropScience received approval in December from the federal government’s Office of the Gene Technology Regulator for the commercial release of canola genetically modified to resist two types of herbicide.

Canola Breeders WA which promotes hybrid canola breeding is offering to give away bags of Roundup Ready canola seeds for free in a buy three, get one free offer to farmers.

West Australian farmer Steve Marsh is suing a neighbour over the alleged contamination of his field with GM canola, which resulted in the loss of hisorganic accreditation in 2010.

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