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2-Plants: U.S. wheat groups working to bring back GM wheat



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TITLE:  U.S. wheat groups working to bring back GM wheat
SOURCE: Reuters, by Carey Gillam
DATE:   06 Feb 2006

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U.S. wheat groups working to bring back GM wheat

SAN ANTONIO (Reuters) - U.S. wheat groups must actively support the
commercialization of genetically modified wheat if the industry is to
reverse a decline in wheat acreage and profitability, industry leaders
said on Sunday. "We desperately need a solution," said Art Brandli, a
member of the Minnesota Wheat Council, speaking to members of the
National Association of Wheat Growers at a grain industry conference in
San Antonio. "We need higher yields and lower costs."

Syngenta AG is currently the lead agrosciences company pursuing a
biotech wheat product. The company has been field testing a spring wheat
that is resistant to fusarium disease. But it has been reluctant to push
the product toward commercialization after intense market Opposition led
rival Monsanto Co. , to shelve its proposed herbicide-resistant biotech
wheat two years ago.

To try to accelerate Syngenta's research, wheat industry leaders meeting
in San Antonio adopted a joint resolution pledging to support Syngenta's
work and to "work proactively" to win over food companies and consumers,
both within the United States and abroad.

U.S. Wheat Associates, which markets wheat for export, approved the
joint resolution on Saturday, and is preparing marketing materials for a
range of top foreign buyers. NAWG, which was expected to adopt the
resolution on Tuesday, was working to garner the support of U.S. food
companies.

"I think it is important that we have unity on biotechnology. We need to
move the technology forward," said Darrell Hanavan, leader of the wheat
industry's joint biotech committee.

Syngenta seed brand manager Rob Bruns said Syngenta needed demonstrated
support if it was to undertake the costly mission of moving a
genetically mod ified, fusarium-resistant wheat through the regulatory
system to market.

Both Bruns and wheat leaders said they had more work to do, primarily
lining up buyers, both foreign and domestic, who will accept biotech
wheat, and setting up systems for segregating conventional wheat from
transgenic supplies.

NAWG executive director Daren Coppock said his organization also is
working closely with Canadian wheat groups to garner support for a
simultaneous release in the United States and Canada.

The unity demonstrated in San Antonio was a dramatic shift from the
pitched battle that has dogged the industry for years. The key fear in
the past was that anti-biotech export customers would boycott U.S. wheat
if a genetically modified variety was commercialized.

That fear remains. But the production challenges for wheat have grown to
the point that Syngenta's disease-resistant wheat is worth the risk,
according to wheat growers As well, Syngenta's wheat should have
improved milling and baking qualities, which should heip boost its
marketability, they said.

"There is a huge turnaround in attitudes on biotech wheat. We want to
keep pushing this train down the track as fast as we can," said Brandli.


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