*Report says GM wheat could cut exports in half
*Students protest use of unlabelled GE wheat
---Report says biotech wheat could cut exports in half
By DAVE KOLPACK
Associated Press, Friday, October 31, 2003
FARGO, N.D. - An economics professor says that the introduction of biotech wheat in the next two to six years could cut spring wheat exports in half. Monsanto Co. officials say the report contains more speculation than fact.
Most foreign countries have no interest in buying products with genetically modified wheat, said Robert Wisner, an Iowa State University researcher who spent about a year working on the study released Thursday.
"Dr. Wisner's report confirms our worst fears," said state Sen. April Fairfield, D-Eldridge. "The premature release of genetically modified wheat will devastate our export markets and threaten the livelihoods of North Dakota wheat farmers."
The report is aimed at scaring farmers, said Shannon Troughton, spokeswoman for St. Louis-based Monsanto, which is developing a biotech wheat that would enable farmers to spray weed killer without killing the wheat plants.
"It's clear that it's the day before Halloween," Troughton said. "The entire report is based on hypothetical situations that aren't going to exist."
Wisner said he gathered information on existing markets, consumer trends, grain handling and transportation. He plugged those numbers into three different market scenarios, which showed a "high probability" of a 30 percent to 50 percent loss in spring wheat exports.
Spring wheat is grown primarily in North Dakota, Montana, South Dakota and Minnesota.
Montana farmers export two-thirds of their wheat to Japan, the Philippines, South Korea and Taiwan, said Helen Waller, who raises wheat on her family's farm near Circle, Mont.
"Consumers in these countries don't want genetically engineered wheat, and because of labeling laws, they have a choice," Waller said.
"As farmers, we've all weathered drought, floods, hail, grasshoppers - you name it," she said. "But nothing can compare to the disaster we'll face if the commercial introduction of genetically engineered wheat drives our buyers away."
Many European and Japanese consumers are opposed to biotech foods because of fears they are not as safe as conventional hybrids.
"The issue here is not food safety," Wisner said Thursday. "The real issue from a marketing standpoint is consumers' attitudes and perceptions."
It's likely that many countries also would stop buying durum if biotech wheat were brought into the market, Wisner said. Durum is a wheat variety used to make pasta.
Michael Doane, spokesman for Monsanto, said it would not make sense for his company to sell genetically modified seed if farmers are not going to buy it.
"We need to know for certain there are markets open to that technology," he said. "And once it does get approval, we will support the ability of the market to offer choice."
Wisner said marketing both biotech and non-biotech wheat would result in more expensive non-biotech wheat because of costs for segregation and certification, forcing foreign buyers to look elsewhere.
Biotech wheat will not be released to farmers unless it is first approved by the Environmental Protection Agency, Food and Drug Administration and the U.S Agriculture Department.
---Students protest use of unlabelled GE wheat
October 30, 2003
Port Hope Evening Guide
A group of St. Mary's Secondary School students in Port Hope, Ontario, are, according to this story, taking up the fight against the use of genetically engineered (GE) wheat in food.
Robyn Vander Vennen was quoted as outlining Wednesday that, "The first thing is, they don't really know the long-term effects on the human body. But the second thing is that foods that use GE wheat won't be labelled so people who may have an allergy, or be opposed to genetically engineered wheat, won't know what's organic and what's not."
Taking a cue from the Council of Canadians, St. Mary's student Ashlea Hegedus-Viola, who is also a member of the school's social justice committee, was cited as urging fellow students to register opposition to unlabelled use of GE wheat in food products. There was quick response in support of the campaign.
"Dr. Wisner's report confirms our worst fears," said state Senator April Fairfield, D-Eldridge. "The premature release of genetically modified wheat will devastate our export markets and threaten the livelihoods of North Dakota wheat farmers."