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  • By Lynda Kiernan-Stone, Global AgInvesting Media

Western Australia’s GM-Free Canola Market at Risk

Western Australia’s GM-Free Farmers Group, which represents 150 farmers, has warned that Western Australia’s non-GMO canola markets are being threatened after genetically modified canola plants were found growing at five separate sites, in some cases more than 100 km away from the closest grain farm.

Of the volunteer GM plants found at the five sites along the trucking routes to the Kwinana port, all were flowering and some had developed pods, meaning that there exists the possibility that they could disperse more seed.

These findings are being cited by the Conservation Council of WA as being indicative of the difficulties being faced in regard to the state’s policy of separation of GM and non-GM canola for export.

“The reality shows the GM canola is not being contained and GM volunteers can emerge a great distance away from where the crops are planted,” said Conservation Council of WA spokesman Dr. Nic Dunlop.

Disagreements are now emerging regarding whose responsibility it is to clear the road verges of these volunteer plants. GM-Free Farmers has suggested that the responsibility falls to Monsanto, who owns the patent on the GM canola, or possibly the Department of Agriculture and Food WA (DAFWA), while Monsanto claims the responsibility falls to the individuation land owners or local government authorities.

DAFWA agreed that the responsibility falls to local government, and offered recommendations for integrated weed management including the use of alternative and additional herbicides to glyphosate and mechanical elimination.

Concerns were also raised that the volunteer GM canola could cross-pollinate with other brassica crops including broccoli, cauliflower, and brussels sprouts, but John Shannon, chief executive of Vegetables WA, said the risk was negligible given that brassicas are usually harvested before they flower, reducing the risk for any contamination.

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