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2-Plants: Update on GE wheat discussion in North Dakota (USA)

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                                  PART I
-------------------------------- GENET-news --------------------------------

TITLE:  ND lawmakers endorse study of GM wheat impacts, farmer sees
        possible 2003 commercialization
SOURCE: CropChoice, USA, by Robert Schubert
DATE:   Oct 30, 2002

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ND lawmakers endorse study of GM wheat impacts, farmer sees possible 2003 

(Wednesday, Oct. 30, 2002 -- CropChoice news) -- The North Dakota 
legislature's interim Agriculture Committee yesterday endorsed a bill that 
would create a state board to study the impacts of genetically engineered 
wheat. It prevented the introduction of an amendment calling for a 
moratorium on transgenic wheat and declined to endorse a bill placing 
liability on biotechnology companies. One farmer suspects that Monsanto 
might be trying to introduce its genetically engineered wheat before 2005.

As it did with the transgenic soybeans, canola, cotton and corn of the same 
name, Monsanto engineered a variety of hard red spring wheat to resist 
glyphosate, the active ingredient in its Roundup herbicide.

But unlike the Roundup Ready corn and soybeans that go mostly to feed 
livestock, wheat is primarily people food. And people in Europe and Japan, 
the top two buyers of the hard red spring wheat grown in the Dakotas, 
Minnesota and Montana, insist that they'll go elsewhere if this latest 
batch of biotech sprouts in the United States and Canada.

Even farmers who grow organic and conventional wheat might face the wrath 
of consumer rejection. Why? Genetic contamination of their crops could 
happen because of cross-pollination or wind and water moving seed from 
field to field. Human and machine errors could lead to mixing of seed 
during processing, distribution and planting.

The same is true of grain handling, say two representatives of the U.S. 
grain trade. They see segregation as a major obstacle.

"It would be a nightmare to try to separate it," says one elevator 
operator. "Picture it. You've got a line of trucks and you've got to test 
every load. It slows down the process. Once this stuff is released, it's 
going to spread."

Although Monsanto has not even introduced Roundup Ready wheat, domestic 
wheat buyers are requesting affidavits attesting to the absence of 
genetically modified organisms, says a flour-milling source.

"I absolutely believe a moratorium on GMO wheat is needed," he says. "There 
may be pluses for a producer, but if no one wants to buy it, the farmer 
might as well be growing Jerusalem artichokes."

But the moratorium route has been rocky. During the last session of the 
Legislative Assembly in 2001, a moratorium bill scaled the full House and 
then the Senate Agriculture Committee before being transformed into a study 
in the Senate. Yesterday's interim legislative session in Bismarck followed 
much the same tack with the endorsement of the bill creating a state board 
to evaluate the impacts of Monsanto's wheat. The bill's fate is now up to 
the Legislative Assembly when it convenes in January 2003.

Parliamentary maneuvers prevented Rep. April Fairfield from amending the 
bill with language imposing a moratorium on bio-engineered wheat until 
2005, says organic wheat farmer Donald Vig, a meeting attendee.

Even lawmakers who support Roundup Ready wheat, including Terry Wanzek, 
chair of the Senate Agriculture Committee, should view a temporary stop on 
this wheat while assessing its market impacts no differently than they 
would moratoriums imposed while resolving phytosanitary issues such as the 
Karnal blunt fungal disease, says Emerado farmer Todd Leake. What's more, 
if the legislature doesn't pass a moratorium next year, and the board 
members were to uncover a problem in 2004 when lawmakers don't meet, what 
action could they realistically take? By the next year, Monsanto would be 
introducing the product.

Monsanto spokespeople would not comment on this story, but they've said in 
the past that the company will not introduce Roundup Ready wheat until it 
has gained market acceptance in all major wheat buying countries. It thinks 
that will happen in 2005.

But the definition of market acceptance is up to Monsanto, says Leake, 
adding that its main tactic has been to delay any meaningful legislative or 
regulatory action.

Monsanto stated in September that it would apply to the US Department of 
Agriculture for deregulation of Roundup Ready wheat, which is government-
speak for permission to sell it, by December of this year, he says. The 
Department, which normally doesn't consider market issues, would follow the 
same line with wheat as it did with transgenic soybeans, corn, canola and 
cotton: "Substantially equivalent to conventional varieties, so consider it 
deregulated." That means Monsanto could introduce the product by the spring 
of 2003.

The interim Agriculture Committee also declined to endorse Sen. Bill 
Bowman's liability legislation that would allow farmers to sue 
biotechnology companies whose products genetically contaminate their 
organic and conventional wheat varieties.

"The company that makes the money off this should have some liability," 
Bowman said, according to the Associated Press.

But liability laws would prevent the state's farmers from enjoying the 
benefits of transgenic wheat, said Monsanto spokesman John Olson, also 
according to AP. "You're going to keep (biotech companies) out of the 
state. I think as this whole process develops you're going to find that a 
lot of farmers want this product in the state."

Some in the audience and on the Committee expressed concerns that such a 
law would wind up pitting farmer against farmer in court.

Organic farmer Donald Vig doesn't see it that way: "If Monsanto introduces 
this GMO pollen into nature and the strong blowing winds of North Dakota, 
then they have to accept the liability that it will blow into someone 
else's field and economically damage them."

                                  PART II
-------------------------------- GENET-news --------------------------------

TITLE:  Senate candidates square off on biotech wheat
SOURCE: Jamestown Sun, USA, by David Maack
DATE:   Oct 30, 2002

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Senate candidates square off on biotech wheat

'Maybe we do need to stop talking about a moratorium and start talking 
about the approval process. That would mean it could not be introduced 
until it is certified. - Rep. April Fairfield, D-Eldridge

Farmers should be able to make their own decisions on whether to grow wheat 
which has been altered through genetic manipulation to tolerate Roundup 
herbicide, said Sen. Terry Wanzek, R-District 29, Jamestown, during a forum 
held Monday at the Gladstone Select Inn. Not so, said Rep. April Fairfield, 
D-Eldridge, who is challenging Wanzek for the Senate seat. Numerous issues 
have to be settled, including protection for organic growers and other 
liability issues, before farmers should be allowed to grow the 
controversial crop.

Wanzek, who did not support a moratorium on growing the Monsanto product 
during the last legislative session, opted instead to support a two-year 
study by a legislative committee. He indicated support for setting up a 
committee in the next legislative session to monitor the GM, or biotech, 

"Maybe we do need to stop talking about a moratorium and start talking 
about the approval process," Fairfield said. "That would mean it could not 
be introduced until it is certified."

Fairfield, who opposes any delay in restricting biotech wheat, said the 
committee mentioned by Wanzek would delay any action on the issue for 
another two years.

"If passed (in committee), we're (Legislature) shirking our 
responsibilities," Fairfield said.

"I believe those involved in the wheat industry are the best people to deal 
with this issue," Wanzek said.

He also said a moratorium may be in violation of the interstate commerce 
section of federal law, according to the North Dakota Attorney General's 

"Monsanto says in writing, until all of the regulatory processes are met in 
Canada, the United States and Japan, it will not release biotech wheat," 
Wanzek said. "I think biotech wheat has great potential."

Fairfield said a promise in writing from Monsanto and a committee formed to 
monitor biotech wheat have not "done what a moratorium would have done."

Issues of liability, storage, shipping and markets should be settled first 
before the wheat is allowed to be grown in North Dakota.

"We can take a leadership role on this," Fairfield said. "We are the number 
one producer of spring wheat and durum in the United States."

"Why do you want to take away my right to grow what I want?" Rep. Mike 
Brandenburg, R-Edgeley, asked Fairfield.

"If you don't get the market issues settled first," Fairfield said, "what 
good does it do to have a choice?"

"Don't I have a right to that choice?" Brandenburg asked.

"To paraphrase," Fairfield said, "your right to choose ends where my choice 

Dustin Lien, a Democrat seeking one of two North Dakota House seats, said, 
"As an organic grower, once you dump it (biotech) on the market, you take 
away my choice."

Neither of the Republican candidates for House seats, incumbent Chet 
Pollert, Carrington, and Craig Headland, rural Montpelier, support a 
moratorium on biotech wheat. Pollert, an elevator owner/operator, supported 
the moratorium two years ago in the Legislature. Headland said he would 
vote in the way his constituents asked him to vote.

An organic grower in the audience said he can no longer grow organic 
soybeans because of the proliferation of biotech soybeans, which cross-
pollinate with and ruin organic soybeans. The soybeans have been altered to 
be resistant to Roundup herbicide.

Wes Martin, Carrington, the Democratic candidate for the House, said he has 
talked to farmers and they don't want the wheat in North Dakota.


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