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7-Business: US wheat industry wrestles with GMO wheat issues

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                                  PART I
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TITLE:  US wheat industry wrestles with GMO wheat issues
SOURCE: Reuters, by Carey Gillam
DATE:   Jan 29, 2003

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US wheat industry wrestles with GMO wheat issues

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. - U.S. wheat industry meetings this week will be
dominated by fierce debate over genetically modified wheat produced by
Monsanto Co., a biotech crop pioneer.

The annual gathering of industry groups, including the National
Association of Wheat Growers and U.S. Wheat Associates, the growers'
marketing arm, opened in Albuquerque on Sunday.

Monsanto completed final regulatory submissions last month in the United
States and Canada for what would be the world's first transgenic wheat,
and now the company is primed to add "Roundup Ready" wheat to its stable
of biotech crop offerings.

Some wheat farmers may be warming to the prospect of a new tool to help
them grow more robust and profitable wheat, engineered to withstand
Monsanto's popular glyphosate-based Roundup herbicide.

But widespread evidence of opposition to GMO wheat from overseas buyers,
particularly in Europe, still makes it unclear when - or if - GMO wheat
will make it to market.

"It is not a given," said NAWG chief executive Darren Coppock. "Our
intent and the goal is to introduce it, but right now...customer
acceptance is a big obstacle."

Genetically modified wheat dominates the schedule at this year's meeting.

The first general session, scheduled for Wednesday, is dedicated to the
debate on genetically modified products. One panel discussion, "Lessons
Learned on the Way to Commercializing a Biotech Product," includes
leaders of the U.S. corn and soybean growers' groups, whose members have
been growing genetically modified crops for several years. That panel is
followed by "Assuring Customer Acceptance," led by the chairman of the
groups' Joint Biotechnology Committee.

More than corn or soybeans, which are mostly used for livestock feeds,
wheat goes straight to consumer products - and to consumer fears. Anti-
GMO groups in recent years have prompted many costly food product recalls
based on consumer doubts about including GMO ingredients in foods.


Monsanto has spent the last few years pitching the benefits of its
Roundup-resistant wheat, which is designed to allow farmers to control
weeds by spraying the herbicide directly over entire fields, killing
weeds without harming the crops.

Roundup Ready varieties of corn and soybeans became popular with farmers
in the mid-1990s, and the company did not anticipate the outcry
surrounding its GMO wheat research.

But U.S. states that grow spring wheat, the first type of wheat for which
Monsanto has created a genetically modified version, threatened
moratoriums, and farmers fretted that even if they did not grow GMO wheat
themselves, customers opposed to biotech would shun them for fear of
getting contaminated grain.

To ease grower fears, Monsanto has pledged that it will not introduce GMO
wheat until the industry is ready. The company promised to wait for
regulatory approval in the United States, Canada and Japan as well as
agreements for major export markets and for grain handling protocols.

"We think that there are a series of milestones that if we can achieve,
we'll set up a responsible and successful introduction of biotech wheat,"
Michael Doane, Monsanto's head of wheat industry affairs, told Reuters.

Monsanto's apparent willingness to go slow has helped it win some support
among farmers. In North Dakota, which grows nearly half of the United
States hard red spring wheat crop, the state farm bureau in November said
it was moving away from earlier stringent opposition to GMO wheat,
adopting a policy to "support a cautious approach" instead.

Many farmers will be watching this week's meetings.

"There isn't a wheat producer out there who isn't affected by this," said
Neal Fisher, North Dakota Wheat Commission administrator. "We know there
are a lot of challenges ahead for us. Certainly, the debate goes on."

                                  PART II
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TITLE:  North Dakota state rep hopes to introduce amendment on transgenic
SOURCE: CropChoice, USA, by Robert Schubert
DATE:   Jan 27, 2003

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North Dakota state rep hopes to introduce amendment on transgenic wheat

(Monday, Jan. 27, 2003 -- CropChoice news) -- North Dakota state Rep.
Phil Mueller wants to introduce an amendment that he hopes will
strengthen a bill creating a transgenic wheat board.

The amendment would give the board the "authority and responsibility to
approve of any introduction of GMO wheat," Mueller said. "I don't know if
the amendment will be successful in that there is a fair amount of
opposition to such a concept on the [House Agriculture] Committee. "

Procedural matters prevented Mueller from introducing the amendment at
the Jan. 16 Committee session. When he'll next have an opportunity to
introduce his amendment is up to the chairman.

The bill Mueller seeks to amend, HB 1026, would establish a governor-
appointed and -chaired board to meet at least on a quarterly basis to
study the scientific, legislative, regulatory, market acceptance (or
rejection) and other news and issues related to genetically modified
wheat. Monsanto wants to commercialize its Roundup Ready wheat,
genetically engineered to resist glyphosate, by 2005. The company last
year formally applied to federal officials in the United States and
Canada for approval.

Mueller's amendment would give the transgenic wheat board the power to
consider and grant (or decline) certificates of approval for the sale of
any genetically engineered wheat in the state.

The company holding the patent(s) for the wheat would have to petition
the board for a certificate. After receiving and reviewing the documents,
the board would be required to hold a public hearing during which it
would accept testimony and further documents regarding the application.

Petitioners' documents would have to include the following, taken
directly from the amendment language:

"1. Identification of the transgenic wheat variety;
2. A description of each genetic modification made to obtain the
particular variety;
3. A description of the techniques used in making each genetic modification;
4. Identification of the introduced or altered genetic material;
5. The effects of the genetic modification on the composition of the
wheat variety that was modified;
6. Identification of specific substances that were expressed, removed, or
altered in the modification process;
7. A description of the allergenicity and toxicity of the transgenic
wheat variety;
8. Information regarding the availability of foreign markets for the
transgenic wheat variety;
9. Information regarding the manner in which the transgenic wheat variety
will be segregated from nontransgenic wheat varieties during production,
harvest, storage, and transportation;
10. Information regarding handling protocols to ensure that the
transgenic wheat variety does not enter foreign or domestic food supplies
for which it has not been approved;
11. Information regarding handling protocols to ensure that the
transgenic wheat variety does not enter foreign countries that have not
approved it for use;
12. An assessment of the benefits and risks anticipated from the
planting, harvest, and sale of the transgenic wheat variety;
13. A description of any pending state or federal level administrative
reviews or legal actions regarding the transgenic wheat variety; and
14. Any other information deemed necessary by the board in order to
complete the review process required by this Act."

A certificate would be valid for one year and anyone attempting to sell
genetically engineered wheat without a certificate would be guilty of
class B felony.

A petitioner that could not satisfy any or all of the requirements
presumably would come away without a certificate.

That would depend on the views of the board members and how carefully
they scrutinize a petition. Mueller's amendment would increase their
number by adding another producer; he foresees another amendment that
would require the inclusion of an organic wheat grower on the board.