GM-free canola demand rising

Clearfield canola was developed using mutation breeding technology and is in demand by crushers.  |  File photo

Few GM-free fields ‘It’s a market trend that can be tough to fill,’ says seed grower

An Alberta seed grower says the growing market for non-genetically modified canola and the later seeding season are increasing demand for two of his normally less popular varieties.

Bob Mastin of Sundre, Alta., has been working with oilseed crushers in Washington state and Manitoba that want his short season, non-GM canola as well as the non-GM Clearfield variety he also markets.

“There is a demand, rightly or wrongly, for non-GM canola,” said Mastin.

Crushers sometimes pay a premium for GM-free canola, but most importantly this year, they will also arrange shipping to obtain the product.

“It’s a market trend and one that can be tough to fill with the right product,” said Mastin.

Finding land to grow GM-free canola is proving a challenge, he added.

Mastin said the short season, non-GM Polish canola is more popular in later seeding seasons, while the Clearfield variety that was developed by BASF using mutation breeding technology is herbicide tolerant but non-GM.

Some of Mastin’s seed is being shipped to Alaska for production trials this season in an effort to find fields that are free of volunteer GM canola.

The International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-Biotech Applications says 97.5 percent of the canola grown in Canada is GM.

“In some cases, farmers are producing it on broken pasture or alfalfa. After those big wind storms at harvest two years ago, even fields that have never grown canola as a crop are growing it now as a weed,” Mastin said.

“But I am getting calls looking to hook up some folks with crushers and GM free canola as crop diversification. Who would have thought, canola as a crop diversification tool?”

Legumex Walker’s Pacific Coast Canola plant is one of North America’s largest non-GM crushers, located in Warden, Wash. As well, Viterra produces non-GM canola oil at its plant at Ste. Agathe, Man.

For a related Western Producer story, click here. To speak with Mastin, call 403-556-2609.

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