The Australian Farm Institute has asked me to write a short article on the pros and cons associated with GM canola. Whether or not to grow GM canola is still a big issue in Australia, whereas in Canada, the genie has been out of the bottle for a long time. In reflecting on Canada’s experience over the last ten to 15 years, I’ve come to the conclusion that the problems caused by GM canola have been due to perception rather than reality. Europe has blocked Canadian canola because of GM traits, and they’ve fretted over Canadian mustard containing trace amounts of canola. Organic producers in Canada have claimed losses due to contamination. These are all issues of perception – that somehow GM canola is something to be feared. Some liken GM canola to a weed and it’s certainly true that you have to keep herbicide resistance traits in mind to achieve control of volunteer canola plants. However, it wouldn’t have been any different had the resistance been achieved through regular plant breeding rather than transgenic manipulation. It’s the end result that matters, not how you get there. The Roundup Ready and Liberty Link systems are GM, but Clearfield isn’t. Some bemoan GM canola because farmer-saved seed has become a thing of the past, but that would have happened anyway. Canola has become Canada’s number one crop and that’s a reality you can take to the bank.
I’m Kevin Hursh.