Monday, February 11, 2008

Monsanto Once Again Pushing Biotech Wheat Despite Consumer Resistance

  • Growers release brakes on biotech wheat
    By Scott Yates / Capital Press, February 7, 2008
    Straight to the Source

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- The Joint Biotech Committee of U.S. Wheat Associates and the National Association of Wheat Growers were cited as revealing on Tuesday an industry eager to get back in the biotech game. Committee members from the two wheat organizations, in Washington, D.C., for their annual meet, were cited as saying they would even support the release of a genetically modified wheat trait in the U.S. before it is introduced in Australia or Canada.

In the past, a unilateral release was viewed as a major hurdle because of the perceived marketing advantage a non-genetically modified wheat supplier might have in a market like Japan, where the technology is viewed with suspicion.

Although the biotech committee would prefer a "simultaneous release," it is no longer a condition. Al Slogen, a North Dakota wheat grower who serves on the biotech panel, was cited as saying the condition has been a burden weighing down tech providers' ability to move forward, adding, "We can't have anchors that tell the tech industry 'here we go again.'" Sherman Reese, former president of NAWG and an Oregon wheat commissioner, was cited as saying from the audience it's time to see what's possible, rather than being hamstrung out of fear of consequences, stating, "My take is there is not a lot of concern about biotech wheat. The concern is that there is wheat at all." The story explains that the current mood is a far cry from the conflicted attitude that existed when Monsanto was trying to get the industry behind the release of Roundup Ready wheat at the turn of the century. Back then, U.S. Wheat Associates warned of markets being lost and backed up its claim with surveys of buyers who said they would cease buying all U.S. wheat if a genetically modified wheat trait were commercialized.

Monsanto ultimately shelved its Roundup Ready wheat technology and shut down its wheat research four years ago. Since then, wheat acreage has continued to lose ground against soybeans and corn, crops that saw single-gene genetically modified traits introduced in 1996. Stacked traits involving multiple genes are now being planted. Syngenta has put a fusarium-resistant biotech trait through field trials, but it has not started the commercialization process.

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