By Boyd Champness

AUSTRALIA – one of the worlds last major food exporters to grow genetically modified crops – is now only one step away from joining the United States and Canada in the race to feed the world.

According to The Age newspaper, some of the worlds leading seed producers, including Monsanto, put in applications last week for approval to sell 13 genetically modified crops to Australia and New Zealand.

At present, there is only one strain of genetically modified cotton being grown on a commercial basis in Australia.

The applications have been made to the Australian and New Zealand Food Authority.

Nine of the 13 crops include three varieties of maize, two of canola, sugarbeet, cotton, soyabeans and “new leaf” potatoes.

The authority has already recommended to the ministerial Australia New Zealand Food Standards Council that Roundup-ready soybeans developed by Monsanto to tolerate glyphosate herbicide be adopted into the food standards code.

The Soyabean has been modified to be high in fatty acid known as oleic acid, so that its oil is more stable for cooking.

Opposition to the application is growing, with organic farmers expressing concerns about cross-pollination and contamination of their crops from genetically modified organisms.

In addition, many food manufacturers – concerned about a consumer backlash against genetically modified foods – may refuse to purchase GM crops.