The West

European demand for canola that is not genetically modified has given WA growers a boost, but raises questions about the drive towards GM crops.

Non-GM canola has been selling for about $600 a tonne, $40 to $50 a tonne more than the GM product, which the European markets generally refuse to buy.

CBH protein and oilseeds marketing manager Peter Elliott said the demand had been created by the need to produce more biofuels in Europe to satisfy new regulations.

He estimated about 70 per cent of canola being sold in Europe was used to produce biofuels.

The fact that much of Canada's canola output was GM meant it could not be sold into Europe.

"So the WA grower and SA grower have quite a good opportunity at the moment where they're sitting on a product that's nicely differentiated," Mr Elliott said.

"They're reaping the benefits of that at the moment through these high prices."

"My preference is to be accumulating non-GM at this stage. That's what the market wants at the moment."

About 7 per cent of the WA canola crop was genetically modified, he said.

Mr Elliott said Asian markets were unlikely to follow the Europe's virtual GM ban, with the biggest customers Japan and Pakistan having no preference.

Pro-GM Cunderdin farmer John Snooke said debate about the price difference was a "media beat-up", because individual growers like him could choose both crops for different markets.

He said GM crops had economic benefits because they were effectively weed proof.

"Price difference is only a small part of profitability. The most profitable system I had last year was the GM system because it yields higher The yield far outweighed the discount.

"We have good markets for GM canola. Our Asian customers buy on price, generally."

Mr Snooke said Canada was producing 12 million to 14 million tonnes of GM canola a year and selling to the same Asian markets.

Mr Elliott said he doubted the improved yield compensated for the price. "GM can confer a certain amount per tonne in terms of economic benefit but I doubt it's $40 or $50 a tonne," he said.

CBH has a system of segregation which it says prevents GM contamination of non-GM canola beyond an agreed level of 0.9 per cent, and ensures the WA product will not lose its status in Europe.

But Network of Concerned Farmers spokeswoman Julie Newman said the State's canola was destined to be compromised by the GM program.

"Contamination will happen but markets don't want it," said Ms Newman, who has farming interests in Newdegate.

"It was not designed to co-exist. It was designed to accept contamination and remove that market differentiation between GM and non-GM.

She accused CBH of spreading the cost burden of segregation onto non-GM growers.

"This price differential is expected to be borne by the non-GM farmer, so we're meant to expect that loss." WA crop 7 The percentage of canola in this State that is genetically modified

The West Australian

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