Monsanto abandons transgenic Australian canola

CANBERRA, Australia, May 12, 2004 (ENS): Two days after announcing a moratorium on its genetically engineered wheat, biotechnology company Monsanto has indicated that it will close its program to introduce genetically modified canola to Australia, according to the Grains Council of Australia.

Grains Council President Keith Perrett says moratoriums on commercial biotech crops in most states are at the root of Monsanto's decision to pull out of genetically modified canola. The canola plant, also known as rape, is valuable for its oily seeds.

"Discussions I've had with Monsanto as recently as today, have indicated to me that they will be pulling out their canola program in Australia," he told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.

Perrett says Australian farmers may now be left behind on important biotechnology innovations.

Monsanto’s decision to terminate its genetically engineered (GE) canola breeding program in Australia is good news for consumers, farmers and the environment, Greenpeace Australia said today.

Genetically engineered canola has been the heart of Monsanto’s program in Australia.

"The death of that program is not only a huge victory for consumers, it’s a very clear message to Bayer’s GE canola program in Australia that this is not a technology that is being embraced by markets or consumers," said Greenpeace Australia GE campaigner Jeremy Tager.

This decision comes just two days after Monsanto announced it is deferring all further efforts to introduce Roundup Ready wheat, a genetically modified variety that tolerates the company's herbicide Roundup.

Monsanto said it is "realigning research and development investments to accelerate the development of new and improved traits in corn, cotton, and oilseeds."

While the Australian government has been supportive of genetically modified crops, the state governments have not been so welcoming. On March 25, the state of Victoria decided to implement a four-year moratorium on the planting of biotech canola although the Commonwealth government had already approved such plantings as safe.

Monsanto and others in private industry have invested millions of dollars in collaborative canola research with the Victorian government, the company said.

"This decision ignores the recommendations and process set out in the study commissioned by the Victorian government," said Terry Bunn, managing director of Monsanto Australia at the time. "Monsanto is disappointed with the government's decision to deny Victorian canola farmers the chance to use a proven and successful technology."

But Tager said the rejection is part of a pattern. “Monsanto is the world’s largest agritech company. In the last few months they have abandoned GE crops in the UK, abandoned research into GE pharmaceutical crops, abandoned GE wheat and now abandoned GE canola in Australia. The writing is on the wall – no one wants GE,” he said.

“This is the beginning of the end of genetically engineered crops,” said Ronnie Cummins, executive director of the U.S. based Organic Consumers Association, which has been campaigning against genetically modified crops. “This is a bitter defeat for Monsanto and a well deserved victory for family farmers and consumers.”

Copyright Environment News Service (ENS) 2004. All Rights Reserved.

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