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2-Plants: Roundup Ready wheat could prove costly, NFU told

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TITLE:  Roundup Ready wheat could prove costly, NFU told
SOURCE: The StarPhoenix, Canada, by Murray Lyons
DATE:   Nov 23, 2002

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Roundup Ready wheat could prove costly, NFU told

Roundup Ready wheat could cost Prairie farmers $12 to $20 more per acre to 
farm, according to a University of Manitoba weed specialist who suggested 
introducing a genetically modified (GM) wheat would cancel the advantages 
of direct seeding.

Rene Van Acker was part of a panel discussion Friday afternoon at the 
National Farmers Union annual convention.

He has been a critic of any plan by Monsanto Corp. to introduce the yet-to-
be-government-approved Roundup Ready wheat varieties that have been out in 
test plots across the Prairies in the past few years.

While it is well established pollen from Roundup Ready and the rival 
Liberty Link canola varieties spreads from canola flowers to traditional 
varieties of canola and causes outcrossing, Van Acker said wheat breeders 
have long known that certain varieties of wheat are also capable of 

Already farmers who direct seed are having to tank mix a chemical such as 
MCPA at added cost to add to their glyphosate (Roundup) when they burn off 
weeds in their fields prior to seeding to kill volunteer Roundup Ready 

Van Acker said that extra tank mixing costs will multiply if Roundup Ready 
wheat is introduced.

"It will add between 12 and 20 bucks an acre for both the adopter of the 
technology and the non-adopter," he said.

With more than 20 million acres of cropland in direct seeding, Van Acker 
says this could cost Prairie farmers $320-$400 million in additional costs.

Van Acker says volunteer GM canola varieties have moved up from being 
nowhere, to the No. 9 problem weed in a Manitoba study.

He says the extent of pollen outcrossing in canola is such that it has 
become impossible for registered seed growers of non-GM canola varieties 
from preventing anywhere up to two per cent of the seed they sell from 
being contaminated with GM seed.

Van Acker says agronomics are one thing, but GM wheat presents a marketing 

While it is relatively simple to screen out tiny volunteer canola seeds 
that end up in a bin of wheat, Van Acker asked how it would be possible to 
remove a Roundup Resistant wheat variety in a bin of oats or barley when 
one grain is so much like another.

He points out food processing companies and breweries have said they don't 
want GM varieties in their products.

"If you introduce GM wheat, what is the collateral market damage?" Van 
Acker asked. "There's more than the wheat market to worry about."

Reached at Monsanto Canada headquarters, spokesperson Trish Jordan said the 
company understands it has to address all the agronomic issues related to 
Roundup Ready wheat.

She says the company is relying on studies which show the spread of wheat 
pollen in fields in minimal and management of volunteers will "not be a 
significant issue.

"We have to develop comprehensive stewardship programs and best management 
practice recommendations for the technology," she said.

Jordan says most farmers who direct seed already tank mix other chemicals 
with Roundup to get rid of volunteers.

"The bottom line in this whole discussion is to introduce this product in a 
way that delivers a net benefit for the farmer, both for those who adopt 
the technology and especially for non-adopters.

"If we can't introduce it in a way that produces a net benefit to the 
farmer, there will be no point in introducing it."


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