Monsanto, Agriculture Canada still working on RR wheat

By Pat Hill

OMAHA, Nebraska, January 14, 2004 -- CropChoice news (DTN, 01/12/04): Reports from some Canadian news sources over the weekend that the Canadian government was ending its collaboration with Monsanto to develop genetically modified wheat were inaccurate, spokespersons for both Ag Canada and Monsanto told DTN.

"The story is that there's no story," said Jim Bole, director of cereal research for Agriculture Canada in Winnipeg.

Agriculture Canada and Monsanto have been working since 1997 on the development of Roundup-Ready wheat, and their work together is slated to continue until 2005. Bole said there's been "no change at all" in the collaborative agreement.

"Most of the research is done," Bole told DTN, but Ag Canada and Monsanto are still evaluating the Roundup Ready lines of wheat in the study. The purpose of the joint project was to study the agronomics of RR wheat -- how to manage production in rotation with other crops, how to control volunteer wheat and so forth.

Monsanto spokesperson Trish Jordan confirmed to DTN that the company is still actively involved in the development of Roundup Ready wheat in Canada and the U.S. Jordan said agreements with Ag Canada are still in place.

"A large majority of the work is done, but I think it's important to understand the context [of the whole project]," Jordan said. The field work is done, but that by no means signals the abandonment of the project.

"Monsanto has every intention of completing it [work on RR wheat]," Jordan said. "We intend to address farmers' questions on management issues."

Jordan said Canadian regulatory agencies have had the package for about a year, and it typically takes two to two and a half years to complete the review.

"We've been very forward" in the process, Jordan told DTN.

"Some think commercial introduction is imminent, but that's not true," Jordan said.

A Canadian Press report over the weekend had said Ag Canada was "ending its work" with Monsanto to develop biotech wheat.