Australia’s biotechnology watchdog has given final approval to the commercial release of genetically modified canola, the first GM food crop to gain regulatory approval in Australia.

The Australian Gene Technology Regulator, Sue Meek, said a licence would be granted for the commercial release of Germany’s Bayer CropScience’s InVigor hybrid canola, designed to resist the herbicide glufosinate ammonium.

“Our rigorous independent assessment of potential health, safety and environmental impacts has found InVigor canola as safe to humans and the environment as conventional canola,” Meek was quoted by Reuters as saying.

Australia is the world’s second-biggest exporter of canola, which is used in cooking oil and margarines. The country’s gene technology regulator is also considering an application from US biotech firm Monsanto to grow its GM canola in Australia.

Farmers wanting to grow the GM canola will still have to convince state governments to allow planting of the biotech crop.

State governments in Australia have the authority to ban GM crops in their jurisdictions. The four main canola-growing states in Australia have all banned the planting of GM varieties until further studies have been conducted, reported Reuters.