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2-Plants: Canadian Wheat Board clarifies position on GM wheat

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TITLE:  CWB clarifies position on GM wheat
SOURCE: The Western Producer, Canada, by Barry Wilson
DATE:   November 8, 2001

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CWB clarifies position on GM wheat

Senior Canadian Wheat Board officials were doing damage control on 
Parliament Hill last week, assuring MPs that they are not opposed to 
genetically modified wheat. In fact, board chair Ken Ritter said he thinks 
it will happen and there will be benefits for farmers who choose to grow GM 
varieties. But not yet.

Board president Greg Arason said customers have made it clear they will 
abandon Canada as a supplier if there is not an assurance that Canadian 
supplies are GM-free. "It is evident that under these circumstances, we 
cannot afford to rush a GM wheat variety onto the market until we can be 
assured that we will be able to continue to meet customer requirements for 
non-GM wheat shipments if necessary," Arason said.

The pre-conditions for introducing a GM variety include a credible 
segregation system, effective testing and sampling methods and reasonable 
tolerance levels for GM content. Under questioning from opposition MPs, 
Ritter said he believes the pre-conditions can be met but not for a few 
years. "We are moving towards a positive conclusion," he said. "This is not 
an anti-technology stance we are taking."

Some MPs were skeptical about the board's strategy and attitude. 
Saskatchewan Canadian Alliance MP David Anderson noted that when the board 
called on the government not to register GM wheat before the market is 
ready, it was joined at the news conference by biotechnology skeptics such 
as the Council of Canadians and Greenpeace. "I have a concern you are 
sleeping with some pretty strange partners," he told board representatives.

Arason did not respond directly to the issue of board allies. He said it 
was important that the wheat board let its farmer suppliers know what its 
international customers want. "For us to sit silent and not inform farmers 
what customers are saying would be irresponsible of us," he said. Customers 
like China and Japan have made it clear they are uneasy or outright opposed 
to the possibility of having GM wheat mixed in with Canadian supplies. "The 
U.S. is another large market for western Canadian farmers," Arason said. 
"The North American Millers Association has publicly expressed its position 
that crops that do not have wide market approval should not be placed on 
the market."

Ritter told MPs there are predictions that the first country to introduce 
GM wheat will lose two-thirds of its markets. Then, once customers become 
more comfortable with the product, other countries will gain the benefit. 
He noted that Monsanto's GM wheat work involves hard red spring wheat grown 
in Canada rather than white wheat, which would be more adaptable to the 
United States, so Canada would likely be the first on the market. "We see 
little benefit to us," said Ritter."Right now, the negatives outweigh the 


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