A LACK of regulatory approval from China for cotton seed produced from the genetically modified (GM) Bollgard 3 suite of cotton varieties could cost the Australian oilseed exporting sector hundreds of millions of dollars if not resolved.
It is expected Australia will produce around one million tonnes of cotton seed this year, with around 90-95 per cent of plantings of Bollgard 3 varieties.
With subdued domestic demand for cotton seed, the industry was targeting the export market, in particular China as a home for the product.
Although China has been a relatively low-key buyer of Australian cotton grain in the past two seasons, industry sources suggest it had emerged as a potential big buyer of Australian cotton grain, with estimates of purchases ranging as high as 400,000 tonnes for use in the feedstock industry.
At present, these sales are in jeopardy due to the regulatory issues.
The Australian Government is now in discussions with China over the issue.
The problem is damaging for the owners of the Bollgard 3 patent, Monsanto, who had been delighted with how Bollgard 3 had performed agronomically in its first season.
Tony May, Monsanto Australia managing director, said he believed the issue was only in terms of gaining approval for shipping related import documentation.
However, on the International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications (ISAAA) register of approved GM traits, Bollgard 3 does not have approval in China.
According to official Australian Bureau of Statistics data, China has been the second biggest buyer of Australian cotton seed in the past three years, behind Japan.