Canola jumps “major hurdle” with EU clearance

The European Union’s lack of disapproval for an obsolete, herbicide-tolerant canola variety puts Canadian canola exporters over a “major hurdle” for EU market access.

The EU executive, the European Commission, said Tuesday it will allow imports of T45, a genetically modified (GM) canola developed by Bayer CropScience, for use in the food and feed market, although not for production in EU farmers’ fields.

T45 was modified to tolerate glufosinate ammonium, the Group 10 active ingredient in herbicides such as Liberty.

The variety was grown in Canada and the U.S. between 1999 and 2003 for both food and feed use but was “globally discontinued” in 2005, according to Bayer, which replaced it with higher-yielding varieties.

According to an article Tuesday by the Reuters news service, EU law allows for “rubberstamp” GM authorizations when EC members can’t agree within a set time frame. Much to the chagrin of GM opponents, the EC has already approved several GM varieties of maize this way since 2004, Reuters said.

Bayer’s T45 application met with a similar lack of majority consensus at the EU agriculture ministers’ meeting in January, Reuters said.

“The authorization of (T45) is important as it will allow the resumption of imports of oilseed rape in the EU from Canada,” the EC said in a statement quoted by Reuters.

The T45 decision “marks the last important canola approval in the EU regulatory system in a series of canola files that have been submitted and approved by the EU,” Bayer CropScience Canada’s communications manager Derrick Rozdeba said.

The EU’s authorization “clears a major hurdle for market access to Europe for Canadian exporters,” he said, and “traders will make any decision on exports based on market opportunities.”

Rozdeba, in an e-mail from Calgary, said Bayer CropScience has applied for import clearance in the EU to allow international trading of canola, as a low-level presence of genetically modified oilseed rape is “technically unavoidable.”

As for T45 itself, Reuters reports that only a “small stock” remains — in Canada.

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