Thursday, January 31, 2008

Four Things I Never Heard any of the many reports on the radio about the New South Wales Government's recent decision to kinda sorta lift the moratorium on planting of genetically modified canola:

* 70% of NSW canola is herbicide-resistant strains generated by conventional breeding.
These are mostly resistant to triazine herbicides, which build up in the environment. The genetically-modified versions available are resistant to glufosinate ammonium or glyphosate, herbicides which degrade rapidly and do not build up in the environment. So GM canola is unlikely to lead to increased herbicide use and there is a clear environmental benefit in introducing them in terms of the herbicides used.

* Our non-GM bulk canola gets the same price in world markets as Canadian GM canola.
So there is no question of us throwing away a 'premium' for a non-GM product. Our yields are just a lot lower because the triazine-resistant varieties are not as high-yielding.

* No 'organic' canola is grown in New South Wales.
So there is no chance of us jeopardising a small boutique industry which is getting a premium price for its product.

* EU and Japanese regulations on the labelling of non-GM foods allow up to 0.9% GM material (EU) and 5%(!) GM material (Japan).
This is far more than documented cases of accidental contamination of non-GM fields from the GM field across the fence, so if a premium non-GM market *did* develop, the fact that GM canola was being grown in the same part of the country would do nothing to stop farmers from participating in it.

This goes to show that there are great benefits to be gained in travelling to other institutions and attending seminars one wouldn't normally go to. I have known for years that the health and environmental arguments against GM foods were bogus, and is interesting to find that the economic ones are (at least in this case) bogus as well.