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Pressure on for GM crops in Australia

SYDNEY - The Australian Government's gene technology regulator said yesterday she had received an application by agricultural chemical maker Monsanto for a licence to grow genetically modified (GM) canola on a commercial basis.
This was the first made for a general or commercial release of GM canola crops in Australia, said Commonwealth Gene Technology Regulator Sue Meek.
A spokeswoman for Monsanto said the timing of the planned crop would depend on the approval process.
On Thursday the French-German science group Aventis said that it would be applying for a licence to grow a commercial GM canola crop in Australia.
Meek said she had received 20 licence applications this year for intentional releases of genetically modified organisms into the environment, mostly for field trials.
Four licences were issued for limited and controlled releases of various forms of GM cotton in Queensland, Western Australia and the Northern Territory.
Licence applications under consideration included five for field trials and one application for a commercial release of GM cotton in Queensland, Western Australia and the Northern Territory.
There were also two applications for field trials of canola in New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia and Western Australia and one application for a commercial release, by Monsanto.
Also under consideration were two applications for oilseed poppies field trials in Western Australia and Tasmania, as well as one application for sugar cane field trials in northern Queensland.
She said that by the end of this month more than a third of about 70 applications for licences to conduct work in contained laboratory facilities would have been approved.
* On Thursday it was announced that New South Wales, a key canola-producing region, would introduce legislation ruling out exclusion zones for GM crops.
Analysts said the legislation indicated an effective win for pro-GM advocates and showed the difficulty of providing for GM and non-GM production, because of the potential for contamination.