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[genet-news] BUSINESS & SEEDS: Monsanto sees right time for GMO wheat



                                  PART 1


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TITLE:   MONSANTO SEES RIGHT TIME FOR GMO WHEAT

SOURCE:  Thomson Reuters, USA

AUTHOR:  Carey Gillam

URL:     http://www.reuters.com/article/idUSTRE6A34K220101104

DATE:    04.11.2010

SUMMARY: "Monsanto Co could start field testing genetically modified wheat within one to two years, but remains cautious about future commercialization, according to one of the company's top wheat technology executives. [...] "I wouldn't say we're jumping in with two feet," said Claire CaJacob, Monsanto's global wheat technology lead executive, in an interview with Reuters. "But I wouldn't say we're tentative. We have traits that make more sense. It's the right time.""

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MONSANTO SEES RIGHT TIME FOR GMO WHEAT

ST. LOUIS (Reuters) - Monsanto Co could start field testing genetically modified wheat within one to two years, but remains cautious about future commercialization, according to one of the company's top wheat technology executives.

Six years after shelving an earlier biotech wheat product in the face of stiff market resistance, Monsanto still sees a need for circumspection, but believes building acceptance and a need for increased food production makes the wheat seed market potentially lucrative over the long term.

Currently there is no biotech wheat on the market because of consumer and food industry opposition, but Monsanto sees attitudes changing.

"I wouldn't say we're jumping in with two feet," said Claire CaJacob, Monsanto's global wheat technology lead executive, in an interview with Reuters. "But I wouldn't say we're tentative. We have traits that make more sense. It's the right time."

Several rival seed companies including Syngenta, BASF and others are also working on developing genetically modified wheat but Monsanto is the world's largest seed company and its work is closely watched worldwide.

Monsanto aims to use genetic modification to develop a higher yielding and more drought and stress-tolerant crop. This year's drought in eastern Europe that decimated the Russian wheat crop only underscores the need for improvements in wheat, said CaJacob. The drought caused U.S. wheat and European wheat futures prices to nearly double in just two months.

Monsanto's wheat research is still in the early "Phase 1" of discovery work, which translates to testing various genes to see what might work. Both U.S. wheat farmers and Australian growers are the early target market.

The company's work to develop a drought-tolerant corn is helping with the research into wheat, she said, but wheat is a much more complicated plant, and it could be one to two years before the company starts field testing and a decade before a product is brought to market, according to CaJacob.

"We are in the stage of seeing if we have any genes that work," said CaJacob. "Until you take it to the field you don't know."

Monsanto abandoned biotech wheat in May 2004 amid broad opposition from buyers of U.S. wheat and from U.S. wheat growers who feared losing sales. The company announced it was restarting wheat research last year, paying $45 million for the WestBred LLC seed germplasm company.

CaJacob said the company was examining various pricing strategies for a future wheat seed product, including questions about whether farmers would continue to be able to save their seed, a common practice by U.S. wheat farmers.

Saving seed is not allowed for farmers buying Monsanto's patented corn and soybean seed technology.

Monsanto is also striving to develop a product line of improved wheat hybrids, using molecular markers that speed up traditional breeding techniques.

"When you hear Monsanto and wheat it doesn't necessarily mean biotech," she said.

(Reporting by Carey Gillam; Editing by Lisa Shumaker)



                                  PART 2

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TITLE:   GM WHEAT UNDER THE GUN

SOURCE:  Stock & Land, Australia

AUTHOR:  Gregor Heard

URL:     http://sl.farmonline.com.au/news/nationalrural/grains-and-cropping/general/gm-wheat-under-the-gun/1989158.aspx

DATE:    05.11.2010

SUMMARY: "POWERFUL environmental lobby group Greenpeace has launched a full scale offensive against Australian conducting trials into genetically modified (GM) wheat. [...] Report author Claire Parfitt claims that GM wheat represents a potential health risk and will damage Australia?s market access. Ms Parfitt also claims that multi-national chemical business Monsanto has a ?stranglehold? on the Australian wheat industry."

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GM WHEAT UNDER THE GUN

POWERFUL environmental lobby group Greenpeace has launched a full scale offensive against Australian conducting trials into genetically modified (GM) wheat.

It launched its ?Spliced Bread ? The Threat Of Genetically Engineered Wheat In Australia? report last week, with a range of celebrity chefs and scientists in attendance to mark the launch.

Report author Claire Parfitt claims that GM wheat represents a potential health risk and will damage Australia?s market access. Ms Parfitt also claims that multi-national chemical business Monsanto has a ?stranglehold? on the Australian wheat industry, a claim based on its recent purchase of a stake in breeding business Intergrain and the fact GM wheat trials are being allowed here.

Greenpeace enlisted the aid of heavy hitters from within the culinary world to mark the report?s launch, with Sydney-based celebrity chefs Peter Gilmore and Robert Marchetti arguing the case against GM wheat.

In the post-Masterchef environment, support from high profile chefs is expected to have a big impact in winning over consumer approval.

However, Greenpeace?s report and its public relations blitz on the risks of GM wheat has come under fire from both the farming and biotechnology sectors.

Russell Amery, president of the Victorian Farmers Federation (VFF) grains group, said he welcomed the GM wheat trials.

?It will be good for the trials to go ahead and see if we have got proof of concept.

?We are not talking about commercialisation here, it is a matter of seeing whether certain traits will or won?t work.?

Mr Amery said the farming sector was hopeful that unlike current GM traits in cotton and canola, scientists would develop non-herbicide resistant traits, such as drought or frost tolerance.

He slammed Greenpeace linking GM wheat trials with Monsanto getting involved with Intergrain, saying the trials were approved by the government prior to August, when Monsanto bought into Intergrain.

?It is a bit mischievous, it is drawing a long bow to link the two.?

Mr Amery said the drafting in of the chefs to win over consumers was also a move away from the core issue of the testing of GM wheat.

?It is disappointing the consumer can be influenced by someone who probably doesn?t understand the science behind this work,? he said.

However Greenpeace said many rank and file farmers were against testing GM wheat, quoting western Victorian farmer and Network of Concerned Farmers member Geoffrey Carracher in media releases accompanying the report.

Mr Carracher called for independent evidence GE wheat will mean profit for farmers, saying he believed it would simply be a case of swelling the bottom line of multinational biotech companies.

?Australian farmers are being lied to by their Farmers Federation, chemical companies and politicians (about GM wheat).

?Who in the world wants to eat it? There is no market demand for GE wheat, so where are the promised profits? Where are the independent studies about markets, yield and agronomy?? asked Mr Carracher.

One of Greenpeace?s major arguments against GM wheat is a lack of market access.

They pointed to a 2003 statement by AWB that noted significant market access barriers for GM wheat.

Greenpeace has pointed to a public statement by one of Australia?s largest bread producers, Goodman Fielder, last week unequivocally rejected GE wheat on the grounds consumers do not want it.

Spokesman for biotechnology lobby group CropLife Dan Quinn criticised the Greenpeace report, likening the organisation to the boy who cried wolf, saying it was time the public lost patience with Greenpeace claims.

?When it comes to the succession of disproven and baseless claims by Greenpeace about genetically modified (GM) crops, we seem to have almost endless patience, yet Greenpeace has been unable to provide one piece of scientifically credible evidence that there is anything wrong with GM crops,? he said.

?Why Greenpeace continue to raise concern over GM crops is perplexing, especially when the world faces huge challenges in feeding a growing population in a changing climate.

?GM crops have delivered a wide range of benefits including reducing water, fuel and insecticide use,? Mr Quinn said.

?While Greenpeace and many other activist groups seem happy to adopt and embrace other health related applications in technology, it is dumbfounding as to why GM food crops are so ferociously opposed.? 




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