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6-Regulation: Monsanto asks for GE-wheat approval in Canada

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-------------------------------- GENET-news --------------------------------

TITLE:  Monsanto Canada asks Ottawa for permit to sell genetically modified
SOURCE: Canadian Press, by Bob Weber
DATE:   Jan 7, 2003

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Monsanto Canada asks Ottawa for permit to sell genetically modified wheat

(CP) - Monsanto Canada has asked the federal government for permission to 
release genetically modified wheat into the farm marketplace. If approved, 
the request would allow farmers to seed the pesticide-tolerant crop in 
their fields and feed it to their animals, potentially extending the 
controversy over bioengineered foods to Canada's largest agricultural 

But a Monsanto spokeswoman said it will probably be years before the wheat, 
engineered to tolerate high doses of the company's pesticide Round Up, sees 
commercial use.

"While regulatory approval will certainly provide an important level of 
confidence across the wheat industry, it doesn't mean we're going to be 
ready to introduce the product," Trish Jordan said Tuesday.

The issue of genetically modified foods is an emotional one for farmers and 
consumers alike.

The move to genetically modified canola in Canada has cost the country its 
European market, where consumers are wary of its safety and environmental 
impacts. Some fear Canada's wheat customers would have the same reaction.

Monsanto has promised not to market the genetically modified wheat until a 
separate grain handling system has been devised to keep it separate from 
normal wheat, including a way of paying for it.

Researchers estimate it could cost farmers an extra $4 a tonne to keep the 
high-tech wheat separate from conventional wheat to satisfy customers like 
those in the European Union who refuse to buy genetically modified crops.

Monsanto has also said it will also not sell the product until the market 
accepts it, said Jordan.

"Why introduce a product nobody wants?" she said.

Farmers will have to be trained on how to use the seed without it spreading 
to adjoining fields. And the agriculture industry will have to come up with 
standards for acceptable levels of genetically modified wheat in shipments 
of the regular grain.

"None of these are small tasks," she said.

Holly Penfound of the environmental group Greenpeace wonders why anyone 
should bother.

"There's no good reason to release this crop," she said from Toronto. 
"Nobody wants it except Monsanto."

Penfound says Monsanto's assurances about being able to keep its wheat 
separate from regular wheat are unconvincing.

Besides, it shouldn't be up to a multinational company to make a decision 
on such an important issue, she said.

Greenpeace has called on Agriculture Minister Lyle Vanclief to nip 
Monsanto's application in the bud.

Stephen Yarrow of the Canadian Food Inspection Agency confirmed his 
department received the application on Dec. 23.

Scientists there will now go over Monsanto's risk assessment, he said. 
They'll look at how easily the crop spreads, whether it has the potential 
to outcompete native species, if it's susceptible to or likely to spread 
plant diseases or if it will have an adverse effect on any animal species.

"What we're interested in mostly from an environmental safety standpoint," 
he said.

It will take at least a year for the agency to review Monsanto's work, he 


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