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2-Plants: Australia farm groups opts for GM canola trial

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TITLE:  Australia farm groups opts for GM canola trial
SOURCE: Reuters
DATE:   May 1, 2003

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Australia farm groups opts for GM canola trial

 SYDNEY - Australia's largest farmers' group yesterday passed a
resolution supporting a three-year trial of genetically modified (GM) canola.

The New South Wales Farmers Association executive council meeting voted
to support a three-year trial of GM canola in the state up to a maximum
of 5,000 hectares (12,360 acres) a year.

The resolution shows that NSW farmers generally support the introduction
of GM canola, which boosts yields, despite opposition from growers who
fear loss of international markets.

The resolution followed a decision on April 1 by Australia's federal GM
watchdog, the Office of the Gene Technology Regulator, to allow Bayer
CropScience (BAYG.DE) to commercially release seven varieties of GM
canola in Australia.

This would allow the first GM canola crop to be grown this year, after a
public consultation period which runs to May 26.

Bayer and Monsanto Co (MON.N), which has also applied for permission to
commercially release GM canola in Australia, both plan a limited release
of GM seed in 2003, of 5,000 ha each.

The Labor government of NSW state has also said it would impose a three-
year ban on the commercial release of GM canola in the state.

Officials of NSW Farmers Association said at Wednesday's executive
council meeting a three-year limited trial was seen as the "way to go" in
handling the moratorium.

Opponents of GM canola told the meeting that a 5,000-hectare release was
not a trial but a controlled release.

Keith Perrett, president of grower body Grains Council of Australia, said
growers needed the opportunity to see GM canola grown in field conditions
to assess its performance, including costs of segregating it from
conventional produce.

"If you want to see this industry progress, this is a minimum way
forward," he said.

Canola, widely used as cooking oil around the world, could become
Australia's first GM food crop. Cotton and carnations are the only
transgenic crops so far commercially grown in Australia.

Rapid expansion of Australia's canola industry, to 2.4 million tonnes in
the 1999/00 crop year from just 200,000 tonnes in the year ended March
1992, has made it the world's second biggest exporter after Canada, whose
crop is more than 60 percent GM.