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2-Plants: The battle over GE wheat

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                                  PART I
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TITLE:  The Battle Over Genetically Engineered Wheat
SOURCE: The Campaign to Label Genetically Engineered Foods, USA, News Update
DATE:   April 11, 2003

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The biggest battle yet in the history of genetically engineered foods is
rapidly developing. The crop of controversy is wheat. The primary
battlegrounds will be the United States and Canada. The whole world will
be watching.


The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved the sale of
unlabeled genetically engineered foods in 1992. The first genetically
engineered food to be sold commercially was the Favr Sarv tomato in 1994.
It was a commercial flop.

In 1996, the first wide-scale commercial planting of genetically
engineered crops took place. Five million acres of genetically engineered
corn and soybeans were planted and very few people were paying attention.
It was a couple years later before opponents of genetically engineered
crops organized themselves to start effectively challenging these
experimental foods.

In 1998, the European Union (EU) implemented labeling requirements on
genetically engineered corn and soybeans. Plus, the EU enacted a
moratorium to prevent any new genetically engineered crops from being
imported. The EU moratorium is still in effect. Rather than labeling
products as containing genetically engineered corn and soy, food
manufacturers and restaurants removed genetically engineered ingredients
from their products in Europe.

While Europeans are essentially not eating any genetically engineered
foods, most U.S. citizens are eating them every day. So now the U.S. is
preparing to take World Trade Organization (WTO) action to force the
Europeans into removing the moratorium on importing America's genetically
engineered crops. And the U.S. is likely to charge that the EU labeling
requirements are an illegal trade barrier.

Since the first wide-scale commercial planting in 1996, the acreage of
genetically engineered crops in the United States has rapidly increased.
In 2003, nearly 90 million acres of genetically engineered crops will be
planted in the United States. This represents about 70 percent of the
total amount of genetically engineered crops being grown in the entire world.

The world's second largest grower of genetically engineered crops is
Argentina followed by Canada and China. Only a handful of other countries
are growing limited quantities of biotech crops. No genetically
engineered crops are being commercially grown in the 15 European Union


By far, the world's largest producer of genetically engineered crops is
Monsanto. However, Argentina, the second largest grower of biotech crops,
has been in a serious economic crisis for the past two years with no end
in sight. And Monsanto has been losing money -- big time.

If Monsanto can begin selling genetically engineered wheat in the United
States and Canada, the company may be able to start earning profits
again. So Monsanto has a strong interest in getting genetically
engineered wheat into commercial production in North America.

For several years, the U.S. and Canadian wheat industries have opposed
the introduction of genetically engineered wheat. However, that changed
dramatically in January of this year at a meeting of wheat industry
officials in Albuquerque, New Mexico. At that meeting, wheat industry
officials decided to form a partnership with Monsanto and push for the
introduction of genetically engineered wheat.


Late last year, Monsanto applied for approval to grow and sell
genetically engineered wheat in both the United States and Canada. If
approved, the first commercial crops of genetically engineered wheat may
be planted as soon as 2004.

Opposition in Canada to genetically engineered wheat has been more
organized than in the United States. Posted below are five articles that
do an excellent job of explaining in detail the growing battle in Canada.

To support the global opposition to genetically engineered wheat, The
Campaign to Label Genetically Engineered Foods has started the Save
Organic Wheat! coalition. We are busy working behind-the-scenes to create
the Save Organic Wheat! web site:

The Save Organic Wheat! web site will be one of the most advanced
activist uses of the Internet ever developed. It will support a global
coalition of organizations, businesses, farmers and consumers opposing
the introduction of genetically engineered wheat. Initially the web site
will only support English language, but as finances allow, we hope to
expand it into support for multiple languages.

The programming of the Save Organic Wheat! web site is very complex and
taking more time and costing more money than we initially anticipated.
However, it will be fully operational in May and geared for action. We
expect the U.S. and Canadian wheat industries to think twice before
moving forward with their support for genetically engineered wheat as the
opposition grows in the coming months.


As you will read in the first article below, the future of organic wheat
is under attack from the introduction of genetically engineered wheat. It
is essential that we fight back to protect the integrity and purity of
organic wheat.

If you would like to contribute to our efforts in this important battle,
you can make a contribution at:


When the introduction of genetically engineered corn and soybeans took
place in 1996, hardly anyone was paying attention. As a result, we now
find that a great deal of the organic corn growing in the United States
has been contaminated by cross pollination from genetically engineered corn.

The question we need to ask ourselves is this: Are we going to allow the
same thing to happen to organic wheat?

The combined forces of the natural products industry, the organic
industry, the environmental movement, family farmers and concerned
citizens will be able to stop the introduction of genetically engineered
wheat -- but only with an organized effort.

The Campaign to Label Genetically Engineered Foods pledges to do
everything within our power to oppose the introduction of genetically
engineered wheat. But we can't do it alone. We need your active support.

Please read the articles below to get a better understanding of the
issues involved in the battle over genetically engineered wheat.

Craig Winters
Executive Director
The Campaign to Label Genetically Engineered Foods

The Campaign
PO Box 55699 Seattle, WA 98155
Tel: +1-425-771-4049
Fax: +1-603-825-5841
Web Site:

Mission Statement: "To create a national grassroots consumer campaign for
the purpose of lobbying Congress and the President to pass legislation
that will require the labeling of genetically engineered foods in the
United States."

                                  PART II
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TITLE:  Caution over GM wheat vowed
SOURCE: The Billings Gazette, USA, by Jim Gransberry
DATE:   Apr 5, 2003

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Caution over GM wheat vowed

Agriculture giant Monsanto will not push genetically modified wheat into
the commercial market until all segments of the industry have their
questions and fears addressed, a company executive said in a recent visit
to Billings.

"We are not selling it unless our customers want it," said Trent Clark.
"That includes the customers of our customers."

Clark was in Billings to deliver a lecture at Rocky Mountain College on
"Biotechnology and Genetically Modified Foods." He is director of public
and government affairs for Monsanto and is in charge of the company's
Roundup herbicide manufacturing plants in Rock Springs, Wyo., and Soda
Springs, Idaho.

"Our intent is to reflect the values of the stakeholders," Clark said.
"When we do release it (Roundup Ready wheat), it will be based on our
five principles" of listening to all customers, providing clear
information, sharing of information to improve agriculture, delivering
high quality and respecting religious, ethical and cultural concerns of
people around the world.

Some farmers in Montana and North Dakota have opposed the introduction of
Roundup Ready wheat and have asked their legislatures this year to put a
moratorium on the commercial production of GM wheat. The farmers also
have asked for policies that would identify liability for lost markets
and for bonding programs. Neither state's legislature approved such measures.

These farmers argue that wheat customers in the Pacific Rim have made it
clear that they do not want GM wheat. And, they say any GM wheat that
ends up in shipments to Asia could destroy the markets that grain farmers
have built over the past 50 years.

Coincidentally, the Montana House Friday concurred with a Senate joint
resolution stating "that the introduction of genetically engineered wheat
and barley for commercial production must be carefully timed so that it
occurs only when there is acceptance of these crops by Montana's major

Clark said that is what Monsanto intends to do. The measure now goes to
the governor for her signature.

Genetic engineering or modification, as compared to hybridization or
cross breeding, is the process of inserting genes from one kind of
organism into the genes of an unrelated organism.

Roundup Ready seeds contain genetic material that makes the plants
resistant to the herbicide Roundup, thus reducing the costs of tilling
and weed control.

Roundup is the world's best-selling herbicide, Clark pointed out.

In a survey last year of Asian wheat buyers, millers and end-users
conducted by U.S. Wheat Associates, the respondents overwhelmingly
rejected the prospect of buying GM wheat. Even trace amounts, known as
"adventitious presence," of GM product in a shipment would result in
rejection, the survey showed. The USWA is the promotion and marketing arm
of the U.S. wheat industry.

Every year, at least 60 percent of the Montana wheat crop is exported
through the Pacific Northwest to Asia. According to the Montana
Department of Agriculture, Japan, the Philippines, South Korea and Taiwan
buy 93 percent of the state's exported wheat. The value of Montana's
wheat crop ranges from $300 million to $700 million a year.

In a recent study, an Extension economist predicted that the short-term
effects on export markets from the commercialization of GM wheat would be
sharply reduced wheat prices.

Robert Wisner, a grain marketing economist at the University of Iowa,
said the price of hard red spring wheat would drop one-third if GM wheat
was introduced into Montana or North Dakota in the next two to six years.
Durum wheat markets would also be at risk, he said.

There is a high risk that from 30 percent to 50 percent of the foreign
market for U.S. hard red spring wheat and even more of the U.S. durum
wheat exports could be lost if genetically engineered wheat is
introduced, Wisner said.

Wisner's study was prepared at the request of the Western Organization of
Resource Councils.

"We don't want to create moral dilemmas by what we sell," Clark said. "We
are respectful of different cultures."

Dan Dutton, a Belfry farmer and member of Northern Plains Resource
Council, is among the wheat growers suspicious of Monsanto.

"Mr. Clark talked a lot about how Monsanto values listening," Dutton
said. "I'd like to see them listen to farmers who are buying their seed
and listen to the customers who are buying our product down the road. Our
customers won't accept genetically engineered wheat. Why should we plant
what we can't sell?"

Monsanto can afford to be patient and listen, Clark responded. "The
potential is so great here that all those concerns can be resolved."

"Will there be heedless introduction?

"With a straight face we can say no," Clark said.