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7-Business: Australia's global markets shun GM wheat



----------------------------- GENET-news -----------------------------

TITLE:  Australia's global markets shun GM wheat
SOURCE: Reuters
DATE:   March 17, 2000

-------------------- archive: http://www.gene.ch/ --------------------


Australia's global markets shun GM wheat

SYDNEY - World-wide customers of Australia's A$3-A$4 billion annual 
wheat exports have shown a clear preference for non genetically 
modified wheat, national wheat exporter AWB Ltd said yesterday. With 
Australia now challenging Canada as the second largest wheat exporter 
in the world, this would result in a large chunk of world traded 
wheat remaining free from genetic engineering for the foreseeable 
future.

AWB's statement, made after a survey of its international customers, 
follows warnings to the U.S., the world's leading wheat exporter, by 
its global customers about their preference for non-GM wheat. "AWB is 
... very aware of an anti-GM feeling out there among our customers," 
AWB's spokeswoman said. "We do not sell GM wheat nor will we in the 
foreseeable future."

Australia's non-GM wheat stance is backed by a growing number of 
countries asking for certified non-GM wheat. "That's evident at the 
moment and we can meet that. We do supply certified non-GM grains," 
the spokeswoman said, adding that AWB operated a secure GM-free 
chain. AWB's feedback, the result of extensive research in each 
individual export market, is in line with customer survey results by 
American export promotion group, U.S. Wheat Associates. Some of the 
most negative reactions came from the biggest customers of U.S. 
wheat, Reuters reported on Wednesday from Washington.


Australian, U.S. wheat face same dilemma

The U.S. association's Tokyo office said GM wheat imports would be a 
"highly sensational and emotional issue" in Japan and could "lead to 
a total boycott of U.S. agricultural products." Japanese millers 
probably would shift from the U.S. to other suppliers, directly 
hitting U.S. market share, the office said.

The South Asian office, which covers the Philippines, Vietnam, 
Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand and Bangladesh, issued a similar 
warning, noting an opportunity for competitors to grab market share 
by guaranteeing GM-free wheat shipments. Buyers in Egypt, the biggest 
export market for U.S. wheat, also expressed concern. The director of 
the Egyptian Food Industries Holding Co, which buys some 1.5 million 
tonnes of wheat each year, told U.S. Wheat Associates board members 
during a recent visit that his company did not want to buy 
genetically modified wheat.

Australia, one of the biggest wheat exporters in the world after a 
series of big crops and aggressive global marketing by AWB, faces the 
same dilemma as the U.S. It sells major tonnages to most of the 
markets listed by U.S. Wheat Associates as negative on GM wheat. It 
does not want to be left behind by productivity gains and cost 
reductions promised by GM wheat crops - particularly if its 
competition in the U.S., Canada and Argentina moves to GM wheat. But 
it also does not want to grow wheat which does not sell.

GM wheat is one of 21 crops presently undergoing trials across 
Australia. And AWB recently entered into a three-way joint venture 
with the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation 
(CSIRO) and Grains Research and Development Corp (GRDC) in a company 
called Graingene. This assures Australia will not be left behind in 
GM science and technology, although GM wheat, if commercially 
introduced at all, is seen about 10 years away. "(But) while the 
customer wants GM free grain, we will deliver GM free grain," AWB's 
spokeswoman recently said. 

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