Sense in pollution

September 2012


Canola field in Western Australia. Photo credit: I [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html),
CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/) or GFDL
(www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html)], from Wikimedia Commons
Australian farmers have had eight years to learn that GM canola (oilseed rape) isn't wanted. Most have learned the lesson well, but in Western Australia they've learned the hard way.

Once upon a time, manufacturers supplied retailers with what the end-customer wanted, and the end-user paid for the goods. The system flowed and everyone lived happily ever after.

Down-under, this supply-and-demand logic seems to have been stood on its head.


Canola is a key component of animal feed, biofuels and the glycerol used in cosmetics. Global trade in the crop has never been greater

GM canola has disrupted this trade because some major markets, such as Europe, Japan and the cosmetics companies, won't accept it.

Western Australia is the only region which grows GM canola. Therefore, GM forms a relatively small proportion (about 10%) of the total canola grown in Australia. However, the farmers of Western Australia, are finding that conventional canola is selling at a healthy premium, while they're losing out.

So, why are they growing GM canola at all?

Well, Canola Breeders WA, which promotes hybrid canola breeding has been giving away a free bag of RoundupReady GM canola with every three purchased. At the same time, Monsanto seems to be underwriting the price paid to farmers for their GM crops at Cargill's main grain processing facility so that GM farmers are guaranteed to lose no more than $10 per tonne. This compares to a $45 premium for non-GM canola elsewhere.

So, manufacturers in 21st century Australia give away goods to the 'retailers' (the farmers), and then pay them to offset their losses when the end-user doesn't actually want the goods.

This may sound as if everyone's losing, but in fact it's excellent business sense. The goods in question are self-replicating, will inevitably become buried in the soil, are able to lie dormant for up to 10 years, will become uncontrollably spread around the country, are able to cross with any similar crops around, and will survive herbicide-treatment (Munier). If you hold a patent on the goods you're helping to give away and buy back, spreading them around makes particular sense because once the land is irrevocably polluted with your artificial genes, everyone will have to buy your seeds or find themselves infringing your patent.

OUR COMMENT

The GM canola in Western Australia has been genetically transformed to absorb and accumulate the herbicide glyphosate (Roundup). If you're not sure why this should be a problem, check out SPRAYED TO DEATH BY GLYPHOSATE - September 2012.

Signs of a concerted attempt to use gene-pollution to force further GM crops into a country have been evident since the 1990s.

Now you know, tell others.

SOURCES
  • Natasha Bita, Monsanto props up weak GM crop price, The Australian, 23.04.12
  • Douglas J. Munier, et al., 2012, Seed bank persistence of genetically modified canola in California, Environmental Science of Pollution Research,19.01.12

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