GENET archive


2-Plants: Dakota (USA) biotech and environment groups fight over GE wheat

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

TITLE:  Put biotech wheat on the table
        Producers, consumers and environment benefit from technology
SOURCE: Grand Forks Hwerald, USA, by Al Skogen
DATE:   27 Jun 2005

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Put biotech wheat on the table
Producers, consumers and environment benefit from technology
[HM/GENET: Al Skogen is Chairman of the biotech lobby organisation
"Growers for Wheat Biotechnology, Inc."]

VALLEY CITY, N.D. - Biotech crops have been grown successfully by farmers
for 10 years on nearly 1 billion acres around the world. What's more, a
recent report by the National Academies of Science verifies there hasn't
been a single legitimate issue regarding human health or environmental
harm attributed to biotech crops.

The truth is producers, consumers and the environment have benefited greatly.

Consider the facts. With 1 billion acres, 10 years' experience and proven
track record with these crops consumed around the world, this technology
no longer can be classified as "new," "untested" or "unpredictable," but
rather should be described as "proven" "accepted" or "well-tested."

One billion acres is a vast amount of experience. If the Japanese had
adopted this technology exclusively and tried to chalk up 1 billion acres
of experience, it would have required planting every arable crop acre in
Japan to biotech crops for 87 consecutive seasons. In Europe, it would be
similar to planting biotech crops on every acre of France for 22
consecutive seasons.

Just when, exactly, does precaution give way to experience?

Regulatory review

During the past 10 years, more than 50 seed traits have gone through
extensive regulatory review and been approved by government regulators
for distribution to farmers. These regulatory standards require proof the
crops are at least as safe as conventional crops for human and animal
consumption and that they pose no new problems for farmers or the environment.

No other crop technology ever has been subjected to as much conclusive
testing for safety to humans or the environment as biotechnology.

Biotech crops let farmers reduce pesticide use by millions of pounds
annually, and studies show that beneficial insects and bird populations
increase when biotech crops replace chemical insecticides. Biotech crops
also contribute to soil-saving tillage practices, which reduce fuel
consumption and protect water quality.

Exaggerated fear campaign

It's clear to most farmers that the environmental movement completely has
neglected the fact that biotech crops are a solid step forward for the
environment. Unfortunately, most environmental activist groups sold their
allegiance to the environment a long time ago in exchange for a fully
funded fear campaign supported by trust funders, organic promoters and
professional agitators.

While activists have done their best to sack genetically improved crops,
it appears they haven't been successful - 85 percent of soybean acres, 40
percent of corn acres and 76 percent of cotton acres in the United States
are planted in biotech varieties.

However, in the case of wheat, a greatly exaggerated fear campaign about
market risk completely has overshadowed the health, economic and
environmental opportunity of adopting biotech wheat.

Our real charge is to educate customers in the truth that biotech crops
are safe and offer the best chance to increase the food supply for a
global population, while reducing the costs to produce this food and
enhance the environment.

My only regret, as a grower who has benefited from growing these biotech
crops over the past several years, is that we are not closer to realizing
these benefits in the wheat industry. Despite 20-plus years of research
and 10 years of commercial success in several crops, the wheat industry
has succumbed to fear tactics of activist groups and retreated from
efforts to introduce beneficial biotech traits. For wheat farmers in the
Northern Plains, this is a tragedy.

I am confident the next 10 years of biotech crops will be even more
beneficial than the previous 10. Drought and cold tolerance, disease
resistance and even more healthful grains are on the horizon.

For the sake of wheat farmers, consumers and the environment, let's hope
wheat will adopt this technology before it is too late.

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

TITLE:  VIEWPOINT: Don't fall for the hype over biotech
        Producers, consumers and environment benefit from technology
SOURCE: Grand Forks Hwerald, USA, by Todd Leake

DATE:   26 Jun 2005

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VIEWPOINT: Don't fall for the hype over biotech
- Leake is an Emerado farmer and member of the Dakota Resources Council -

EMERADO, N.D. - Pro-biotech activists such as Al Skogen get pretty
frothed up about the alleged wonders of biotechnology.

But after 10 years, the real questions are, "Where's the science?" And
"Where's the economics?"

Are the markets there for biotech wheat? Of course not. Otherwise, it
probably would be on the market now. Wheat customers both in the United
States and abroad categorically rejected the proposal of genetically
modified wheat.

Monsanto responded to massive market rejection of its proposed Roundup
Ready hard red spring wheat in May 2004 by suspending field trials and
withdrawing permit applications. It was the only rational thing to do.

Lucky for wheat farmers that Skogen wasn't in charge at Monsanto. Lucky
for Monsanto, too. He probably would have run both wheat farmers and
Monsanto out of business - and blaming the customers who didn't want the
product wouldn't have been much consolation.

Speaking of consumers, their attitudes aren't changing very fast, despite
the propaganda efforts of Skogen and others. According to a report issued
by agricultural economist Dr. Robert Wisner of Iowa State University one
year after Monsanto pulled the plug, U.S. farmers still stand to lose
one-half of foreign markets and one-third of their wheat price if Roundup
Ready wheat were to be introduced.

Also last week, Japan rejected shipments of U.S. corn contaminated with
Syngenta Corp.'s BT-10 corn, an unapproved variety suspected of health
problems. Many countries around the world have been buying only corn
guaranteed free of BT-10, cutting U.S. corn farmers out of those markets
and decreasing family farm income.

So, are biotech products safe to eat? There's not much proof - because
not much research has been done, and what has been done has been kept
secret. Only last week, a British court ordered Monsanto to release a
1,139-page report it kept secret, indicating that a genetically modified
corn variety caused disease in rats fed the corn.

Hiding research of negative health impacts of genetically modified crops
does nothing but instill suspicion of the integrity of the science and
public heath regulatory process behind GM foods, and rightly so.

In spite of Skogen's claims, no federal agency conducts scientific
research to determine the safety of new biotech crops before they are
introduced, and that's the way the companies that market GM crops want it.

Other independent research also is rare. Two Norwegian researchers
published a review in 2003 of the scanty research on biotech safety and
concluded that "much more scientific effort and investigation is
necessary before we can be satisfied that eating foods containing GM
material in the long term is not likely to provoke any form of health

But at least biotech crops cut down on pesticide, right? Not according to
independent researcher Charles Benbrook, whose October 2004 report found
that Roundup Ready crops have increased herbicide use on corn, soybeans
and cotton by 138 million pounds since 1996 - about nine times the 15.6
million-pound decrease in insecticide applications due to Bt corn and cotton.

Most of the hype surrounding GM foods is just that: hype. It is hype to
promote corporate products despite the concerns of food safety and the
adverse economic impact to farmers. It's well past time for the United
States to catch up on the safety and economic scrutiny of GM foods.


European NGO Network on Genetic Engineering

Hartmut MEYER (Mr)
In den Steinäckern 13
D - 38116 Braunschweig

P: +49-531-5168746
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