Farm groups counter call for GMO wheat
2.Ag groups push back against biotech wheat
EXTRACT: NFU president Stewart Wells retorted May 15 that the three Canadian groups backing the biotech effort "don't speak for the majority of producers" and that international customers who now buy 82 per cent of Canada's wheat crop have previously said they would stop buying if Canada were to introduce GM wheat. (item 2)
1.Farm groups counter call for GMO wheat
Reuters, June 1 2009
SASKATOON, Saskatchewan (Reuters) - Farm and environment groups opposed to genetically modified wheat are countering a call from other farm organizations for biotech companies to commercially develop it.
Fifteen groups in the top wheat-exporting countries of Canada, the U.S. and Australia released a joint statement of opposition to GMO wheat on Monday. It follows the May 14 call by GM wheat supporters in the three countries for synchronized production of GM wheat.
"Genetic engineering for wheat would be a calamity for all wheat farmers," said Julie Newman, a member of the Network of Concerned Farmers in Australia. "Consumers across the world have already rejected the idea of GE wheat."
Monsanto Co shelved plans for a herbicide-tolerant GMO wheat in 2004 in the face of opposition from U.S. wheat buyers, farmers and exporters such as the Canadian Wheat Board that feared a loss of overseas customers. Major export markets in Europe and Asia are particularly sensitive to concerns about GM food.
The farm groups' main concern is that loss of markets will hurt prices for farmers, said Katherine Ozer, executive director of the Washington D.C.-based National Family Farm Coalition.
"If (genetically engineered) wheat is released commercially, contamination would be inevitable and markets would view all wheat produced from these areas as GE unless proven to be non-GE," the groups stated. "Farmers growing GE wheat will take on all of the responsibilities, costs and liabilities, with little available legal recourse to recover their losses."
Other groups signing the statement include the National Farmers Union, Canadian Biotechnology Action Network, the Organic Federation of Australia, Biological Farmers of Australia, Greenpeace and the U.S.-based Organic Consumers Association.
Farmers who support development of GMO wheat say genetic engineering would help wheat stay competitive with other key crops like corn, soybeans and canola that have GM seed options. But GMO opponents counter that unlike GMO crops grown primarily for feed, oil and fiber, wheat is mainly used for human consumption and would be subject to labeling requirements in many countries.
(Reporting by Rod Nickel; Editing by John Picinich)
2.Ag groups push back against biotech wheat
Alberta Farmer, 2 June 2009
A bid by a number of Canadian, U.S. and Australian growers' groups to help clear the regulatory road for gene-altered wheats has run up against equally opposed groups from the same three countries.
"In light of our existing experience with genetic engineering, and recognizing the global consumer rejection of genetically engineered (GE) wheat, we restate our definitive opposition to GE wheat and our commitment to stopping the commercialization of GE traits in our wheat crops," 15 farmer, consumer and "civil society" groups said in a joint release Monday.
Canadian groups putting their names to the statement include the National Farmers Union (NFU), Canadian Biotechnology Action Network, Union Paysanne, Union Biologique Paysanne, Reseau Quebecois contre les OGM and the Saskatchewan Organic Directorate.
Australian groups included the Network of Concerned Farmers, Organic Federation of Australia, Biological Farmers of Australia, Greenpeace and Gene Ethics. U.S. groups on the same statement included the National Family Farm Coalition (NFFC), Western Organization of Resource Councils, Center for Food Safety and Organic Consumers Association.
"GE wheat is a potential disaster of huge proportions. People do not want GE in their bread," NFU vice-president Terry Boehm, who farms at Allan, Sask., said in the groups' release. "We refuse to allow industry groups to restart any campaign to commercialize GE wheat."
"Monsanto and industry groups in our countries need to abandon their agenda of forcing GE wheat onto a market that doesn't want or need it," NFFC executive director Katherine Ozer said in the same release.
Similar pressure from various groups has so far kept any seed genetics firm from trying to register a GM wheat. Monsanto in 2004 announced it would shelve its work toward introduction of wheat varieties in Canada and the U.S. with its patented Roundup Ready genetics for glyphosate tolerance.
Farm groups and agencies such as the Canadian Wheat Board have previously contended that introduction of biotech wheat, without significant market acceptance or a functioning system to segregate it from conventional wheats, would jeopardize farmers' export and domestic markets alike for the conventional crop.
Monday's statement followed a May 14 release from growers' groups that said they would work together to "ensure the commercial introduction of biotech traits in wheat will proceed smoothly by synchronizing regulatory approvals in exporting and importing nations."
Applying biotechnology in wheat research "could lead to the development of several traits to improve wheat yields and wheat quality," the pro-biotech growers' groups said.
As it now would take six to eight years for new biotech wheat varieties to reach commercial introduction, the groups said, "it is critical to signal both seed developers and policymakers now, that many farmers are eager to see biotech traits in wheat that could improve their profitability and improve food security for many countries around the world."
Traits to improve wheat plants' yields could include those that deal with environmental factors (drought, cold), combat weed or insect infestations, improve disease resistance or improve a plant's use of nutrients, the groups said.
Canadian groups on board to support wheat biotech approvals included the Grain Growers of Canada, Western Canadian Wheat Growers Association and Alberta Winter Wheat Producers Commission.
U.S. supporters included the National Association of Wheat Growers, U.S. Wheat Associates and North American Millers' Association, while Australian groups involved included the Grains Council of Australia, Grain Growers Association and the Pastoralists and Graziers Association of Western Australia.
NFU president Stewart Wells retorted May 15 that the three Canadian groups backing the biotech effort "don't speak for the majority of producers" and that international customers who now buy 82 per cent of Canada's wheat crop have previously said they would stop buying if Canada were to introduce GM wheat.