What is Canola and GM Canola?
Canola (or rapeseed), Brassica napus, is an oilseed crop which is cultivated for its high quality edible oil used in many foods (eg. margarines and cooking oil) and seed meal (the fibrous material left after the oil pressing process), which has a high protein content making it highly desirable as a stock feed.
Canola has been grown in Australia's southern grain belt since 1969. In 2010-11, Victoria produced 476 thousand tonnes of canola with a gross value of $293 million. Canola also has a beneficial effect on wheat by reducing soil-borne diseases when it is incorporated as part of the rotation system. Wheat produced following canola has around a 20% yield benefit over wheat following wheat.
Control of weeds, particularly weeds from the Brassicaceae family (broadleaf), through herbicide application during the canola-growing season, has a significant impact on quantity and quality of the grain produced. Weeds compete for space, nutrients and sunlight which can ultimately lead to significant yield losses in the crop and contamination of the bulk seed if they are present at harvest.
Two genetically modified (GM) canola varieties have been developed in Australia, Roundup Ready® (by Monsanto Australia Ltd) and InVigor® (by Bayer CropSciences Pty Ltd). To be most effective, each variety has been developed to be tolerant to and hence used with a specific herbicide under a defined crop management plan.
Roundup Ready® GM canola includes tolerance to the herbicide glyphosate. InVigor® GM canola includes tolerance to the herbicide glufosinate. Company trials and experience from growing these crops overseas have shown that GM canola produced under its defined crop management plan offers superior weed control (compared with current practices), higher yields and management savings. The herbicides used on these crops are ‘softer’ on the environment, compared to some ‘harsher’ herbicides used on non-GM canola.
GM canola was grown commercially for the first time in Victoria and NSW in 2008 and in WA in 2010. Roundup Ready®, which to date has been the only GM canola available, has been approved for use by the Office of the Gene Technology Regulator (OGTR). In 2010, around 190 Victorian farmers planted 36,500 hectares. Consecutive wet seasons in 2011 and 2012 have resulted in 15,600 hectares of GM canola being planted in 2012 and 18,500 hectares in 2011. Reports from farmers who planted GM canola indicated a high level of satisfaction, including improved weed control compared with other canola varieties.