23 October 2002
THE PEOPLE SHOULD DECIDE, NOT MONSANTO
In the Government's Scoping Note on the economic considerations relating to GM crop commercialisation in the UK, it's argued that if there's no market for GM crops no one will grow them.
They need to look at the desperate efforts being made in North America to prevent Monsanto commercialising its GM wheat. All the anxiety arises from the prospect of some farmers growing it with disastrous consequences for other famers' markets.
"We don't want to destroy our markets. Let's make sure that we can sell it before we grow it. In the movies it works to say, if you build it they'll come, but in actual operation I've never seen it happen." - Manitoba farmer, Bill Ridgeway (item 3)
"Trusting Monsanto to decide when there's enough acceptance out there would be a foolish mistake. Financially troubled Monsanto has everything to gain and nothing to lose by releasing GM wheat. It remains unclear what North Dakota farmers have to gain, but they clearly have huge markets to lose... we could let Monsanto decide. And maybe we also could get Enron to run our utilities and Arthur Andersen to keep the books." - North Dakota farmer, Steve Pollestad (item 1)
Item 3 on Canadian farners' rejection of GM wheat is an older item.
Items 1 and 2 are letters published this week.
1-2. IS THE MARKET READY FOR GM WHEAT? THE PEOPLE OF NORTH DAKOTA SHOULD DECIDE, NOT MONSANTO
3. Members of Canada's largest grain company oppose new GM crops
1. IS THE MARKET READY FOR GM WHEAT? THE PEOPLE OF NORTH DAKOTA SHOULD DECIDE, NOT MONSANTO
October 21, 2002
Grand Forks Herald
Steve Pollestad of Halliday, N.D. writes that in his interview with Agweek's Mikkel Pates (Beyond Roundup, Sept. 9, page 32) Greg Daws makes it seem like the issue is a moratorium on genetically modified wheat research. It isn't.
The issue is a moratorium on GM wheat commercialization - quite a different matter.
Remember that no one asked the 2001 North Dakota Legislature to outlaw the testing of GM wheat. In fact, it was Monsanto that brought up the research issue - threatening to pull the plug on research funding if the Legislature placed a two-year moratorium on GM wheat research.
During that legislative session and in the next interim, Daws and Monsanto have warned lawmakers not to "send Monsanto the wrong signal" about GM wheat. Pollestad says perhaps the signal they want to send is the white flag of surrender: "Do anything you want to us, Monsanto, only please don't leave."
Rather than fall into that kind of sick dependency, shouldn't North Dakota have the right to set some rules for Monsanto to live by? Chief among these rules should be that North Dakota, not Monsanto, gets to decide when Roundup Ready wheat is commercially viable and should be released. That was the idea behind the moratorium effort in 2001. Since the last legislative session, Monsanto has sent some mixed signals on commercialization of GM wheat. It continues to lay all the regulatory groundwork for getting it approved, even while it says it only will release it if it's accepted in the marketplace.
Trusting Monsanto to decide when there's enough acceptance out there would be a foolish mistake. Financially troubled Monsanto has everything to gain and nothing to lose by releasing GM wheat. It remains unclear what North Dakota farmers have to gain, but they clearly have huge markets to lose.
Maybe a time-limited moratorium is not the best solution, but our legislators must find a way to put the market readiness decision in the hands of people who are accountable to the citizens of North Dakota. Or, we could let Monsanto decide. And maybe we also could get Enron to run our utilities and Arthur Andersen to keep the books.
2. R.J. Stohler of West Fargo, N.D. writes that Greg Daws in an Agweek article (Beyond Roundup, Sept. 9, page 34) mentions Japan not accepting wheat contaminated with vomitoxin, implying acceptance of genetically modified wheat that is vomitoxin free. Later, the reporter says, Daws is aware that the Japanese and others don't want GM wheat any more than they want vomitoxin
How confused can one be, especially with the issue of markets as clear-cut as it is?
One example, Rank Hovis, an overseas buyer, in the North Dakota Wheat Commission's July to August 2002 newsletter, states that, "I am going to ask you not to grow genetically modified wheat until we are able to sell in our market the bread made from the flour made from that wheat. I cannot tell you how to run your business - but if you do grow genetically modified or enhanced wheat, we will not be able to buy any of your wheat - neither the GM nor the conventional. The latter because we will not be able to guarantee the integrity of even the conventional to zero content of GM."
Ron Olson, vice president of General Mills, also comments, "When you inject a supply-driven concept into a demand-driven market, it's a recipe for failure."
Can one speak more clearly than that?
Daws wants an "education process". He suggests trade missions. Those usually have involved such groups as the North Dakota Wheat Commission, North Dakota Farm Bureau, North Dakota Farmers Union, U.S. Wheat Associates, North Dakota Grain Dealers, Cenex-Harvest States, Southwest Grain Cooperative and the elevators.
These organizations should not spend one penny to help in the marketing, let alone the developing of GM wheat. How about Spring Wheat Bakers? Its member-oriented organization image already is damaged with the $500,000 bailout from Monsanto. Maybe North Dakota State University in Fargo or other universities? Its kowtowing to the demands and money of Monsanto and similar corporate interests already has tainted its integrity. Just maybe North Dakota Grain Growers has the money to fund developing and marketing GM wheat. These three groups would be foolish indeed to take up this program.
Whose responsibility is it to develop acceptance of GM wheat?
Monsanto and any company that wishes to market or develop these types of products, that's who. They assume farmers will pay for the development and marketing of a Monsanto product, before there is a product to sell to them.
As ever, Monsanto wants to let farmers and taxpayers bear the costs and risks of this scheme. Stohler says that Daws' out of the box thinking; would float dirigibles carrying barge loads of wheat 100 feet above the ground. It's a good idea with a few big difficulties. Such problems would involve running into transmission lines, wind turbines, crashing like the Hindenberg. Don't forget the problem of leaking barges of GM wheat contaminating the countryside from coast to coast. Who has not followed a canvas-covered truck on the way to the elevator, and had to avoid the grains being blown back?
It is good to see Daws and his friends worry about market acceptance and the problems of segregation. They seem to be hoping that this all falls together before it is too late rather than taking a proactive position to keep GM wheat out until these problems are solved, nor do they seem aware that in many countries, wheat and bread have a sacred status. They will not permit any tampering with the staff of life.
Now is the time to support and urge our legislators to adopt a GM wheat moratorium until all of these problems are addressed and resolved. ---
3. Members of Canada's largest grain company oppose new GM crops
Agricore United delegates oppose new GM crops
Reuters [via Agnet]
November 7, 2001
SASKATOON, Saskatchewan - Delegates at the first annual members meeting of Agricore United, Canada's largest grain company, were cited as telling their new board on Wednesday that they don't want any more genetically modified crops developed without market acceptance.
Bill Ridgeway, the Manitoba farmer who presented the resolution, was quoted as saying, "We don't want to destroy our markets. Let's make sure that we can sell it before we grow it. In the movies it works to say, if you build it they'll come, but in actual operation I've never seen it happen."
The story explains that the group of farmers and shareholders from the Canadian Prairies were meeting face to face for the first time just one week after the official merger between United Grain Growers and Agricore Co-operative that produced Agricore United. The grain merchandiser, seed developer and crop input retailer will handle about 12 million tonnes of grains and oilseeds or about 40 percent of western Canada's market share.
The story adds that the farmers attending the meeting urged Agricore United's board of directors, many of whom are also growers, to lobby for more work on an identity preserved system that can effectively segregate GM and non-GMO varieties, an initiative that the Canadian Commission has already undertaken. The Agricore United delegates' resolution, along with a motion to halt plans to create genetically modified wheat, an endeavor that has been spearheaded by U.S. biotech giant Monsanto Co., are non-binding, aimed at advising management on future policy direction.