Baston backs GM crops

Brad Thompson

Agriculture Minister Ken Baston is backing increased growing of genetically modified crops in WA and is particularly excited about a strain of canola developed by the CSIRO that includes omega-3 fatty acids typically found in fish oils.

Mr Baston said GM technology had an important role to play in feeding the world and in the future of farming in WA.

His unprecedented support of the food technology comes as the State Government prepares to repeal the GM Crops Free Areas Act and with an appeal pending in a landmark damages case involving GM canola.

"It is important that growers have the opportunity to decide what to produce on their properties that best fits their production system in order for the WA grains industry to be internationally competitive," Mr Baston said.

"The consequences of not investing in GM technology at this time are a reduction in productivity gains, a potential decline in international competitiveness, less profitable farming systems and less viable regional communities."

A Government-funded report by the Grains Industry Association of WA has identified GM crops as one of the keys to doubling the yearly value of the local grains industry to $10 billion over the next decade.

It backed the use of GM crops in the production of food, pharmaceuticals and industrial products, with special mention of the CSIRO's omega-3 canola developed by transferring genes from micro algae.

The CSIRO is collaborating with Nufarm and the Grains Research and Development Corporation to gain regulatory approval to make the seeds commercially available by 2018.

Mr Baston said there was potential to grow canola with omega-3 fatty acids and crops with other consumer-driven traits in WA.

WA farmers have been able to grow GM canola based on Monsanto's Roundup Ready technology for the past four years under the State's GM Crops Free Areas Act.

Mr Baston is moving to repeal the Act, which requires the WA Government to grant an exemption to allow the planting of GM crops approved as safe to use by Commonwealth authorities.