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2-Plants: Syngenta seeking assurances on GMO wheat project



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TITLE:  Syngenta seeking assurances on GMO wheat project
SOURCE: Reuters, by Carey Gillam
DATE:   23 Feb 2006

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Syngenta seeking assurances on GMO wheat project

KANSAS CITY - Syngenta Seeds is at least six years away from rolling out
what would be the world's first genetically modified wheat seed, and the
company is now trying to determine if it should continue with the
controversial project, a company seed breeding official said on Wednesday.

Rollie Sears, senior development manager for Syngenta Seeds, said
Syngenta has recorded good results from five years of field trials for a
type of genetically modified wheat that is resistant to fusarium
disease, which has cost U.S. wheat farmers millions of dollars in losses
in the last several years.

But continued aversion to scientific tinkering with the key food crop in
some sectors has made Syngenta skittish, and if the company is to
proceed, it must gain the support of major food companies and other
players in wheat processing, Sears said. Syngenta already has sought,
and received, a pledge of support from U.S. wheat growers and export
marketing leaders, but needs further assurances before it determines
whether it will seek regulatory approval for the fusarium-resistant
wheat, according to Sears.

"lt takes a cooperative effort from the entire industry to launch the
first biotech trait in wheat, "said Sears, who was attending a Wheat
Quality Council meeting in Kansas City.

Two years ago Syngenta rival Monsanto Co. aborted plans to commercialize
a transgenic wheat that was resistant to herbicide. The retreat came in
the face of stiff opposition from buyers of U.S. wheat and farmers who
feared they would lose customers for their crop.

Currently there are no transgenic wheat varieties planted commercially
anywhere in the world. But increasingly U.S. wheat farmers are clamoring
for wheat technological advancements to help them grow wheat more profitably.

National Association of Wheat Growers chief executive officer Daren
Coppock said the profitability of wheat farming is in decline and
consequently farmers are increasingly replacing wheat acreage with corn,
soybeans and other crops. Without advancements to help farmers fight
disease and drought and other problems, wheat farmers will continue to
struggle to survive, he said.

"We have a problem," said Coppock. "We don't have the luxury of dancing
around this topic anymore."

Syngenta Seeds is part of Swiss agrochemicals firm Syngenta, which was
created six years ago by the merger of the agrochemicals businesses of
AstraZeneca and Novartis. lt vies with Bayer's CropScience for the
number-one spot in the global agrochemicals market.

 	

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