GENET archive


6-Regulation: North Dakota (USA) citizens may vote on GE wheat

                                  PART I
-------------------------------- GENET-news -------------------------------

TITLE:  Study finds most in state know little about GM foods
SOURCE: The Associated Press / Bismarck Tribune, USA
DATE:   26 Jul 2004 

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Study finds most in state know little about GM foods

FARGO -- Most North Dakotans know very little about genetically modified
foods, a survey by professors at two universities has found. In a
telephone survey of nearly 407 adult shoppers in the state, 64 percent
didn't know what genetically modified foods were until they were told.
Forty-eight percent of those surveyed didn't believe or didn't know such
foods are in grocery stores. Scientists use genetic engineering to
introduce foreign genes into plants and animals. It allows them to
develop new characteristics in plants or animals that would be difficult
to do through traditional breeding methods. The Grocery Manufacturers of
America estimates that 60 percent to 70 percent of all processed foods
contain genetically modified soy, canola or corn. The products are used
in are breakfast cereals, muffin mixes, corn chips, cooking oils and
chocolates. "People eat transgenetics every day," said Al Schneiter,
chairman of North Dakota State University's Plant Sciences Department.
The study was conducted by University of North Dakota marketing professor
William Lesch and Cheryl Wachenheim, an associate professor in NDSU's
Department of Agribusiness and Applied Economics. It was commissioned by
the North Dakota Farm Bureau's Young Farmers and Ranchers Committee. 

                                  PART II
-------------------------------- GENET-news -------------------------------

TITLE:  NORTH DAKOTA INITIATIVES: Same sex measure nears signature goal
        Fate of wheat and tax proposals remains uncertain
SOURCE: Grand Forks Herald, USa, by Lloyd Nicholas
DATE:   25 Jul 2004 

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NORTH DAKOTA INITIATIVES: Same sex measure nears signature goal
Fate of wheat and tax proposals remains uncertain

Organizers of a proposed North Dakota constitutional amendment to limit
the recognition of marriage to one man and one woman said they are on
target to secure the prescribed signatures by midnight Aug. 3, but the
fate of the biotech wheat and tax initiative is uncertain.

The signature requirement only is 12,844 for the biotech wheat
initiative, because it is a state law matter and not a constitutional
amendment, but the deadline is the same.


Wheat initiative

While the debate on same sex unions is getting a lot of attention, talk
about the biotech wheat initiative and its economic impact has been low-key.

The biotech wheat initiative could be the most important for the state,
said David Kopf, director of the North Dakota Statistics Service.

"Wheat production is extremely significant to the local economy, both in
terms of revenue and land use," he said. "Some 8.63 million acres were
planted in 2003 and the revenue from the harvested grain exceeded $1
billion dollars."

But Jim Kusler, a committee member of an advocate group, Go Slow With
GMW, said the real beef of the matter is not just the amount of money the
crops generate, but that the entire market for the crop could be lost.

"If the measured is passed, we could lose our export market as our
customers tell us, some 80 percent or 90 percent of them, that they are
not interested in GM wheat.

"If GM wheat is introduced, it is an irreversible decision as other wheat
type plants would be pollinated by the GM, and over time, traditional
wheat varieties will disappear.

"That's why, we are trying to protect our exports," he said.

The petition, if passed, gives the North Dakota Agriculture Commissioner
the power to decide whether to allow commercial planting of genetically
modified wheat seed. But organizers of the initiative could not say how
much progress is being made with their signature campaign. And Charlene
Nelson, an organizer of the tax initiative signature effort, which would
require state government and local governments to get 60 percent voter
approval before raising taxes, could not say what their signature tally
was, although she estimated only getting half of the amount as of Friday.


more on the GE wheat ballot initiative at:

                                  PART III
-------------------------------- GENET-news -------------------------------

TITLE:  Push to ban biotech wheat in N.D. begins
SOURCE: The Forum, USA, by Jeff Zent
DATE:   2 May 2004

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Push to ban biotech wheat in N.D. begins

Church pastor Karl Limvere will this week begin a statewide crusade to
save North Dakota's wheat industry.

Limvere, pastor of Medina's Zion United Church of Christ, and 26 other
members of a group called the Go Slow with GMO Committee will begin to
distribute a statewide petition in hopes of slowing, if not stopping, the
introduction of genetically modified wheat.

They hope to gather the 12,844 signatures needed to get their cause,
crafted into a proposed measure, on the Nov. 2 ballot. They have until
Aug. 4 to get the signatures.

The group hasn't sought or received endorsements and plans to begin
circulating the petition are unorchestrated.

"We would like to have it ready for the November ballot, but this may
stretch longer than we would like," Limvere said last week.

Some critics of the proposed ballot measure say the state's wheat
industry doesn't need saving. The measure, they say, would do more harm
than good in a state that often leads the nation in wheat production.

The proposed measure's language also has drawn criticism from the state's
two largest farm organizations, the Farm Bureau and Farmers Union - both
of which support a go-slow approach for the high-tech wheat's release.

The measure would give North Dakota's agriculture commissioner the
authority to decide if farmers could plant genetically modified wheat.

The agriculture commissioner would have to convene a fact-finding
committee of six independent experts and hold at least one public hearing
before deciding the matter. The committee would have to consider if
genetically modified wheat could be segregated, if there's a market for
the grain and what kind of liability issues might exist.

It would allow biotech wheat research to continue at North Dakota State
University as long as test fields are separated from traditional wheat crops.

The measure would give one person, the agriculture commissioner, too much
power, said Eric Aasmundstad, a Ramsey County farmer and president of the
North Dakota Farm Bureau.

Robert Carlson, president of the North Dakota Farmers Union, said he's
concerned with the measure's language regarding who would be the
appointed experts of a fact-finding committee.

"There's no farmers," he said. "I am concerned about the mix of people
who would advise."

Most experts would be from the academic or plant science communities.

The committee's proposed ballot measure isn't the first attempt to rein
in biotech wheat. For the past several years, lawmakers have floated
bills to either ban or restrict the crop's production. They've all failed.

The Go Slow with GMO Committee's distaste for genetically modified wheat
is one of economics.

About half of the wheat grown in the United States is exported. And U.S.
farmers' largest customers, including Japan and Europe, don't want
genetically modified wheat.

The wheat grown in North Dakota last year is worth more than $1 billion,
said Jim Peterson, marketing specialist with the North Dakota Wheat

A market backlash against genetically modified wheat could cripple
farmers in North Dakota, the nation's largest producer of hard red spring
wheat, said Agriculture Commissioner Roger Johnson.

"I think it's very important that we acknowledge the marketplace and
produce what our customers want," he said.

St. Louis-based Monsanto Co. has developed a genetically modified wheat
that tolerates the company's Round Up herbicide.

The technology would allow farmers to apply one herbicide for a large
spectrum of weeds.

Monsanto is teaming with NDSU to develop biotech wheat varieties best
suited for North Dakota's harsh weather environment.

Federal approval of Monsanto's gene-altered wheat could come as early as
next year.

Monsanto, however, has pledged not to commercialize the wheat until
there's market acceptance and other concerns are satisfied.

If so, Limvere says, Monsanto and supporters of its wheat technology,
have nothing to fear from the proposed ballot measure.

"This is a way to make sure the good intentions and promises made are
fulfilled," he said.

Aasmundstad views the proposed ballot measure much differently.

The measure would send the message that North Dakota doesn't want to take
part in technological advances, he said.

"Who's going to grow it if nobody wants it?" Aasmundstad said. "The free
market system works and we've got to let it work."

With the measure's passage, large companies who heavily invest in the
development of new crop technologies may abandon the needs of North
Dakota farmers, said Ken Grafton, director of NDSU's experiment stations.

"Technology will literally bypass us," Grafton said.

"The big picture here, I think, is that we've got a lot of novel traits
coming forward with this technology," he said. "If it was wheat with
drought resistance would we be opposed to that, too?"


European NGO Network on Genetic Engineering

Hartmut MEYER (Mr)
Kleine Wiese 6
D - 38116 Braunschweig

P: +49-531-5168746
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