From: Reuters
Published March 14, 2008 01:31 AM

Australia to grow first GMO canola in 2008

SYDNEY (Reuters) - Australia will grow its first genetically modified (GMO) canola crop this year, the state government of New South Wales said on Friday.

After removing a four-year ban on GMO canola last November, state Agriculture Minister Ian Macdonald said on Friday approval had been given to an application by the canola industry to plant a commercial crop.

"From today the commercial production of GMO canola in New South Wales is legal," he said.

Last November two Australian states, New South Wales and Victoria, removed bans on the growing of commercial GMO canola crops. However, applications were not then in place to grow the crop.

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Commercial GMO canola crops would bring the states into line with the world's leading exporter, Canada, which has received longstanding yield increases through genetic modification of the oilseed.

Macdonald said that limited seed stocks meant that only a small canola crop would be planted for 2008/09. Planting takes place in coming months for harvesting toward the end of the calendar year.

Australia's last canola crop was also smaller than usual, at 1.07 million tons, because of drought. The average canola crop in Australia over the past five years is 1.46 million tons.

The government's Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics recently forecast that the national canola crop in 2008/09 would amount to 1.43 million tons.

Western Australia, which normally produces around 500,000 tons of canola a year, still has bans on growing commercial GMO canola crops.

Australia is normally the second-biggest canola exporter in the world.

(Reporting by Michael Byrnes)

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