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6-Regulation: Canada Wheat Board wants cost-benefit test for GMwheat

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TITLE:  Canada Wheat Board wants market test for GM wheat
SOURCE: Reuters, by Roberta Rampton
DATE:   Mar 31, 2003

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Canada Wheat Board wants market test for GM wheat

WINNIPEG, Manitoba, March 31 (Reuters) - Genetically modified wheat
should face a cost-benefit test to ensure enough buyers will accept it
before it is approved, the Canadian Wheat Board proposed in a letter to
federal officials on Monday.

The Canadian government is currently reviewing a GM wheat variety
developed by Monsanto Co. (nyse: MON - news - people) for food, feed and
environmental safety.

But the Canadian Wheat Board (CWB) said approving the wheat on safety
alone is not enough. Gord Flaten, the CWB's director of market
development, said the government also needs to consider whether GM wheat
will harm markets before approving it.

"Rather than prematurely going to that approval stage, let's do the cost-
benefit analysis on whether it's worth it or not," Flaten told Reuters
after speaking to a Canada Grains Council conference.

More than 80 percent of the CWB's buyers have said they do not want to
buy GM wheat, nor have traces of it in their shipments, said Flaten.

Monsanto has also applied for regulatory approval of its "Roundup Ready"
wheat in the United States. It plans to submit applications to the
European Union and Japan in 2003, said Timothy Conner, director of
oilseed technology with Monsanto.

Gaining regulatory approval in the EU or Japan would be a key milestone
for the company as it moves toward commercialization, Conner said.

"Either one of those markets is large enough to allow you to launch a
product and get moving, particularly in the key commodities we deal
with," Conner told Reuters on the sidelines of the conference.


Roundup Ready wheat is modified to withstand applications of Monsanto's
Roundup herbicide. Conner said the company believes it will increase
yields by 11 to 14 percent.

Monsanto has promised it will not commercialize the wheat until key
markets accept the wheat and the grain industry is able to keep GM wheat
segregated from non-GM wheat, added Curtis Rempel, Monsanto's commercial
development manager for Roundup Ready wheat in Canada.

But Rempel said it's premature for the industry to discuss whether
markets accept GM wheat until it is first approved by the Canadian
regulatory agency.

"You can't have market acceptance without regulatory approval," Rempel said.

Flaten said regulatory approval in Canada would set off alarm bells for
the CWB's customers, regardless of whether Monsanto subsequently
commercialized production of GM wheat in Canada.

"Regulatory approval in any market doesn't mean customer approval,"
Flaten said.

He said it's up to the federal government whether to change its
regulatory process ahead of approving Monsanto's GM wheat.

"There have been some signals from the federal government recently that
they're open to the idea, so we're hopeful," Flaten said.

But a spokesman for Pioneer Hi-Bred Ltd.'s Canadian subsidiary said his
company opposes the added step to gaining regulatory approval.

Spokesman Art Stirling said the cost-benefit test could be subject to
legal and trade challenges, and would stifle innovation.

"We favor self-regulation," Stirling said, explaining companies are
financially motivated to make sure their seed helps the grain industry profit.