AUSTRALIAN oilseed producers will make their decisions on whether or not to produce canola crops glyphosate free or with markedly reduced applications of the herbicide according to market demands.
This is the view of Rabobank senior grains and oilseeds analyst Cheryl Kalisch Gordon.
Speaking in reference to the controversy in the European Union, where the EU Government remains on the cusp of banning glyphosate, the world’s most popular herbicide, Dr Kalisch Gordon said should a market emerge for canola untreated with the product, Australian farmers would assess the merits of it.
“How high the prices for glyphosate-free canola rise would be the determinant of whether Australian oilseeds grown without, or with reduced rates of glyphosate are a viable prospect for Australian grain farmers,” she said.
She said changes to glyphosate laws in the EU may see changes to their import standards to match, including either a ban on glyphosate use on imports altogether or the imposition of difficult to meet maximum residue limits (MRLs).
Dr Kalisch Gordon said this in turn may create a flow on effect in other key Australian markets such as China, either directly or indirectly.
“At the least, it would put downward pressure on pricing for newly-available grains looking for a different international market,” she said.
“If other markets followed suit by banning glyphosate or implementing unworkable MRLs, Australian grain would find itself with reduced global market opportunities.”
However, on the flipside, she said in corn and oilseeds, where the EU is a net importer, prices would rise for product meeting EU import standards.
The EU situation remains unknown, with the Parliament still unable to reach a resolution ahead of the December 15 expiry of the temporary permit for glyphosate use.
Both the pro and anti glyphosate camps failed to gain a majority at the November 9 vote, leaving the situation in limbo.
Dr Kalisch Gordon said there was now commentary about compromises on the issue, such as some EU member nations banning the product and others not, or the banning of the use of glyphosate in non-agricultural settings, but added nothing was concrete yet.
However, she said even if a compromise was reached and some glyphosate use remained in the EU, Aussie farmers had to be aware it would not be the end of the issue, with talks to continue globally around the safety of the product.
Currently Roundup, Monsanto’s flagship glyphosate product, is the centre of a US Federal Court case in San Francisco about its safety.
The extreme scenario is that the EU does ban glyphosate and phases out its use over a five year period, which will see a change in management practice among EU croppers.
However, Dr Kalisch Gordon said the loss of glyphosate in the EU would not be as cataclysmic for the grains industry there as it would be in Australia.
“Agriculture in the EU relies less on glyphosate than does Australian agricultural production, with some EU farmers still using tillage as the primary strategy for weed control,” she said.
She said Rabobank’s research team expected the cost of production to increase for EU producers, but added it was not expected a ban would significantly lower overall tonnes produced.
Meanwhile, farmer groups in the EU are mobilising to lobby for the continued use of glyphosate, adopting tactics developed by the Green lobby to spread the message on the positives of the herbicide.
The Italian organisation Liberte Di Coltovare was collecting signed letters from concerned producers at the recent International Livestock Exhibition in Cremona, Lombardy.
Italian born Cairns resident Elena Mora, back in Italy for a holiday, was helping a journalist friend collect signatures for the cause and said concerned people included university professors and students as well as farmers.
"We are spreading the word," Ms Mora said.
"We are a new political lobby group fighting for what is best for farmers and trying to get the message out that glyphosate is not a problem if it is applied correctly and not over-used.”