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2-Plants: Big Canadian grain coalition opposes GM wheat

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                                  PART I
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TITLE:  Big grain coalition opposes GM wheat
SOURCE: Western Producer, Canada, by Barry Wilson
DATE:   Apr 10, 2003

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Big grain coalition opposes GM wheat

The federal grain variety registration process must be changed to test
economic and market factors before genetically modified wheat is
approved, a powerful coalition of grain producers, millers, marketers and
farm groups told Ottawa last week.

The change must be made within the next year, politicians were told
through March 31 letters to agriculture minister Lyle Vanclief and during
April 3 appearances on Parliament Hill by Canadian Wheat Board and miller

Wheat board chair Ken Ritter told MPs on the House of Commons agriculture
committee that with a Monsanto application for a GM wheat registration in
the system, there is no time to lose.

"We could be faced with a situation where Roundup Ready wheat is approved
for unconfined release and variety registration in the spring of 2004,"
he said. "That is one year away and one year is a very short time. The
urgency of this issue cannot be overstated."

The board, with the support of a variety of farm and grain groups, called
for the addition of a cost-benefit analysis to the scientific basis now
used to decide if new varieties can be registered. The board says 82
percent of countries that buy red spring wheat have indicated a
reluctance or refusal to buy Canadian wheat if GM varieties are approved.

Gordon Harrison, president of the Canadian National Millers Association,
said millers and bakers support the proposal. Domestically and
internationally, there is consumer resistance and Canada does not have a
grain handling system capable of guaranteeing segregation.

"The experience of (millers) over the past three years suggests that
there is no demand for genetically modified milling wheat among this
industry's customers," he said in a letter to Vanclief.

Harrison told the committee that millers and bakers believe that all new
varieties being registered, GM or conventional, should have a market
impact test.

"We propose that in order to be licensed for unconfined release and
production, a new variety must provide a net benefit to the entire value
chain," said the miller lobbyist.

The federal government has resisted such a move, insisting that all
decisions on food registration be science-based.

At the April 3 agriculture committee meeting, that government position
and the scientific basis received strong support from the lobby group
Grain Growers of Canada, representing some barley, wheat, soy and canola
associations across the country.

Introduction of political or economic considerations into variety or food
approval decisions would undermine Canada's fight against protectionist
"consumer preference" rules promoted by such importers as the European
Union, said GGC and Ontario Corn Producers' Association Don McCabe.

"The rigour of the Canadian system ensures that all new food products are
tested and determined for consumption regardless of how they are
produced," he said in a presentation to the Commons committee.

Canada's trade stance is to fight countries that try to restrict trade
for "non-scientific reasons .... Passing our own non-scientific
legislation or regulations would undermine these efforts."

As McCabe spoke, there was a symbol of the complexity of this issue
visible for MPs to see.

The Ontario Wheat Board, which has ended its marketing monopoly and is a
member of the grain growers lobby, nonetheless signed the letter calling
for a market acceptance assessment sent by the Canadian Wheat Board to
the government.

                                  PART II
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TITLE:  Market 'risk' once part of process
SOURCE: Western Producer, Canada, by Barry Wilson
DATE:   Apr 10, 2003

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Market 'risk' once part of process

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency quietly changed the terms of
reference for its advisory committee on grain variety registration last
year when it discovered that for more than a decade, the committee could
include market impact in its deliberations.

The demand for a market impact test is at the heart of a campaign by the
Canadian Wheat Board, millers, bakers and some farm groups to delay
registration of genetically modified wheat until buyers will accept it.

So far, Ottawa has resisted the call for a cost-benefit analysis as part
of the registration process, insisting that the science-based process
cannot be politicized.

But as early as 1990, the wheat, rye and triticale subcommittee of the
Prairie Registration Recommending Committee for Grain included in its
operating procedures a "definition of merit" clause allowing its members
to look beyond agronomics, quality and disease resistance when
considering new varieties.

"Candidates that introduce production or marketing risks for their own or
for other wheat classes may be rejected regardless of merit in other
traits," said the operating procedures manual.

CFIA officials found out about it in late March 2001 and vice-president
Peter Brackenridge quickly summed up the impact for then-president Ron

"If the members of this subcommittee, which includes representation from
farmers, agronomists, breeders, pathologists, seed companies and grain
quality experts, strongly believe that a (Roundup-resistant) wheat could
cause marketing risks for other traditional wheat, they could vote to not
support it for registration," he wrote in a memo acquired under access-
to-information laws by Canadian Health Coalition researcher Brad Duplisea.

The CFIA quickly moved to tell the committee it should not use the power
to let market issues influence recommendations. And last year, it had the
operating procedures changed to remove the clause.

"Once we brought it up and the CFIA took note of it, they came back and
said they didn't think it appropriate that it be there, or that it be
used," Robert Graf, a wheat breeder at the Agriculture Canada research
centre in Lethbridge and a former chair of the wheat, rye and triticale
subcommittee said in an April 7 interview.

"So there is confusion about this issue and it really has to be cleared up."

Graf said the agency was within its rights to change the terms of reference.

"We can only recommend," said Graf. "They don't have to listen to the
recommendation. Most of the time they would accept it but they don't have to."

He said he did not believe the market impact test has been used to reject
a variety.

Before the CFIA acted, the Canadian Wheat Board thought it had found a
way to keep GM wheat out of the system, despite government insistence it
was not possible under the rules.

"We have initiated discussions with CFIA, (Agriculture Canada) and others
on this topic and it seemed to me everyone was operating on the
understanding that market impact is not part of the process today and
that significant regulatory and/or legislative change would be necessary
to introduce it," Graf said in an e-mail message to a CFIA official April
11, 2001 asking for more details.

Now, after the CFIA removed that option, the CWB is back before
government officials and committees asking that a similar option be put
back into the registration system.

                                  PART III
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TITLE:  Lobby wants science, not consumers to decide
SOURCE: Western Producer, Canada, by Barry Wilson
DATE:   Apr 10, 2003

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Lobby wants science, not consumers to decide

A national lobby group for grain and oilseeds farmers is warning the
federal government against using a market acceptance test or cost-benefit
analysis before genetically modified wheat can be approved for the
Canadian market.

Grain Growers of Canada warned the House of Commons agriculture committee
April 3 that any move away from a science-based criterion for new plant
variety approvals could drive biotechnology investment away from Canada
and deprive farmers of the best in variety development.

"Governments must be careful not to take actions today that restrict
farmers' access to these advances," Grain Growers vice-president Don
Kenny told MPs.

Director Don McCabe said any government decision on the approval system
for GM wheat will have to apply to all other varieties as well.

"This fact cannot be forgotten when this issue is discussed," he said.
"GGC members are extremely concerned with the direction proposed by those
calling for changes to Canada's regulatory system."

The grain growers' lobby was taking a stand against a powerful coalition
of growers, marketers and customers that is calling on Ottawa to keep GM
wheat off the market until it is more widely accepted.

The Canadian Wheat Board, bakers and millers and many farm groups have
joined the call for a cost-benefit analysis on GM wheat, arguing its
unrestricted introduction could drive customers away and close markets
for Canadian wheat.

The Ontario Wheat Board, although a Grain Growers' member, supports the
CWB call for an economic analysis, in addition to science-based
acceptance, before a variety can be approved.

The grain growers' lobby, representing Ontario corn producers, Canadian
canola growers, Western Canadian Wheat Growers Association and western
barley growers, acknowledged there are legitimate industry concerns that
GM wheat could damage markets.

However, rather than a regulatory change toward politics and economics
and away from science, they suggested an "advanced stakeholder review
process" that would allow the variety developer, farmers, consumers,
governments, processors and others with a stake in the debate to decide
how a variety that meets the traditional regulatory tests should be
introduced and marketed.

"These concerns should be dealt with on a voluntary basis by industry and
not through government regulations or legislation," said McCabe.

The group suggested developers of the varieties, including Monsanto and
GM wheat, would be willing to sign an agreement that the variety would
not be marketed until a committee evaluation had been done and a market
impact assessment completed.

Critics suggested this voluntary proposal leaves wary customers with
nothing more than a promise that industry will agree not to market an
unpopular product. The system must offer more guarantees that Canada's
wheat supply is guaranteed free of genetically modified varieties, they said.

Gordon Harrison, president of the Canadian National Millers' Association,
said his members and the Baking Association of Canada want a stronger
guarantee than an industry promise that GM wheat or other varieties with
market-disrupting potential will not be introduced.

He said many customers of millers demand a written guarantee there is no
GM material. The existing grain handling system cannot guarantee segregation.

And developers of new varieties that have been approved through the
traditional variety approval process will want a return on their investment.

He said the protection against unwanted marketing of GM varieties must be
guaranteed by regulation and not left up to the industry.

                                  PART IV
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TITLE:  Protesters fear consequences of GM wheat trials
SOURCE: Western Producer, Canada, by Ed White
DATE:   Apr 10, 2003

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Protesters fear consequences of GM wheat trials

MORDEN, Man. -- After their demonstration, the protesters here tried to
relax, breaking into small groups to chat, to somersault on the grassy
field and to play hacky-sack.

A folk singer sang and pro-organic protesters munched away on free
organic treats, but the relaxed mood was strained by a cold northeast
wind. It chilled the demonstrators, who had come from Winnipeg to condemn
Agriculture Canada's participation in open-air testing of genetically
modified wheat.

It was the kind of wind they feared could spread genetically modified
pollen into organic fields.

"Pollen can spread extremely far," said Karine Grotte, a Winnipegger, who
played hacky-sack with friends in front of the Agriculture Canada
research centre in Morden.

"I'm very scared of genetic engineering. I don't think we have the
knowledge to mess around with these kinds of things at all and I'm afraid
of what's going to happen when we release this into the environment."

Some, such as La Broquerie, Man., organic farmer Gerry Dube, see the
open-air trials as a threat to their livelihood.

The wind may blow wheat pollen out of the Agriculture Canada plots and
into conventional wheat. If GM genes get into his wheat, he would lose
his organic certification, he said.

Dube condemned Agriculture Canada for spending public money on developing
a product for Monsanto.

"It has not been proven that this will be beneficial to anybody except
the big companies that supply the product."

Janine Gibson, an inspector with Canadian Organic Growers, said this
protest, which she helped organize, was meant to spread the word to the
public that Agriculture Canada is testing genetically modified wheat in
open fields.

"Our members really do not want their wheat contaminated with genetically
engineered DNA," said Gibson.

Winnipeg folk singer Maria Mango said open-air trials could release GM
wheat DNA across the Prairies, and that would take away her right to
obtain organic wheat in stores.

"I believe in good food and freedom, and that food is key to freedom,"
said Mango.

Agriculture Canada has been working with Monsanto to develop varieties of
prairie wheat that would be resistant to glyphosate. No varieties of GM
wheat have been approved for farm production.

Open-air testing of GM wheat has not been carried out secretly. Last
year, Monsanto took reporters on a tour of its open-air test plots in
Western Canada.

But Gibson said many people believe GM wheat is still in the laboratory.

Scientists and developers argue that wheat pollen does not spread widely,
and large buffer zones around crop plots will virtually eliminate the
widespread mixing of GM wheat DNA into surrounding fields.

But Gibson said organic growers and eaters aren't willing to trust the
crop developers.

"They said the same thing about canola," said Gibson.

"Why should we believe them now when it didn't prove true then?"