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7-Business: U.S. Wheat Associates urge to delay commercialization of GM wheat

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SOURCE: U. S. Wheat Associates, Wheat Letter
DATE:   July 12, 2002

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U. S. Wheat Associates continues to urge biotech companies to delay 
commercialization of GM wheat until there is customer acceptance as well as 
regulatory approvals in U.S. wheat markets.


As Monsanto and Syngenta proceed down the path to commercialization of 
genetically modified wheat, issues loom even larger for the international 
grain trade, which is already reeling from liability issues caused by 
presence of unaccepted varieties of genetically modified corn, soy, and 
canola. Last year, U.S. Wheat Associates joined a prestigious roster of 
organizations committed to maintaining efficient international trade.

The International Grain Trade Coalition, with members collectively 
representing over a thousand trading companies around the world, is 
focusing on the implementation of the Biosafety Protocol, an international 
environmental treaty that will govern the transboundary movement of GMOs. 
(The Protocol refers to "living modified organisms, or LMOs.) Among a 
myriad of issues, the IGTC has initially focused on addressing proposals on 
cargo documentation that will be difficult -- if not impossible -- for the 
international bulk grain trade to fulfill.

IGTC is sorting out when documentation will be required, and what 
documentation will suffice. One of the most vexing problems within that 
issue is the one of threshold tolerances for GMOs. While the Biosafety 
Protocol negotiators seem to basically recognize that a zero tolerance 
threshold is not practical, there is no international agreement on 
acceptable thresholds for the unintentional presence of GMOs that will be 
found in grain shipments.

The problem is not inconsequential. As one of the members of IGTC explains, 
"without international agreement on acceptable thresholds, the exporter 
concerned with potentially massive yet undefined liability is placed in an 
unmanageable situation." Carrying that to its logical conclusion, this 
expert explained, there are three courses of action: "the exporter could 
refuse to ship, the contractor will contractually shift liability to the 
supplier, or the entire industry will act responsibly and secure 
comprehensive international approval prior to any introduction of a genetic 
event in commercial channels."

The IGTC invites and encourages other industry associations and companies 
involved in international grain trade activities to join the coalition. 
Interested groups can contact USW (reply to this message if you'd like) and 
we will forward your inquiry to the IGTC.

The founding members of the IGTC include the Canadian Grains Council, the 
North American Export Grain Association (NAEGA represents the private and 
publicly owned companies and cooperatives that export practically all the 
grain and oilseeds from the United States), the Grain and Feed Trade 
Association (GAFTA represents the interests of members who trade in grains, 
feedingstuffs, pulses and rice internationally, with over 800 members in 80 
countries), and the Comite du Commerce des Cereals (COCERAL is the trade 
association of the cereals, feedstuffs, and other industries in the 
European Union).


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