Manitoba, March 21, 2004 -- CropChoice news -- Reuters,
03/19/04: World wheat buyers are increasingly
opposed to genetically engineered (GE) wheat, says the
Canadian Wheat Board, one of the world's largest wheat
The CWB, which has a monopoly on wheat and barley exports
from Canada's main Prairie growing region, said buyers
of 87 percent of its wheat in the 2002-03 marketing
year required guarantees that the wheat was not genetically
engineered. That's up from 82 percent two years ago,
the board said in a statement.
The CWB's 10 highest volume markets all required the
guarantee, including Japan, Mexico, Britain, Italy,
Indonesia and Malaysia, as well as domestic millers,
the board said.
Genetically engineered wheat is not yet grown in Canada,
but regulators are examining a variety from Monsanto
Co for food, feed and environmental safety.
Food safety bodies and other regulatory authorities
around the world have been asked to approve the sale
of products containing GE wheat, apparently in an effort
to re-assure growers there will be markets open to their
product if they grow the GE cultivar.
Monsanto has applied to Food Standards Australia New
Zealand (FSANZ) to allow its GE wheat to be introduced
into the New Zealand food chain. Similar applications
have been made in Canada, Australia and the United States.
Critics have raised concerns over its environmental
impact and the difficulty of segregating GE from conventional
wheat varieties. Wheat has special significance as a
staple in the New Zealand diet. It is not just present
in foods such as breads, cereals and pastas, but in
a wide range of processed foods as a thickener. FSANZ
has already approved 21 other GE crops for human consumption
with a further five assessments pending.
Monsanto has promised farmers it will not sell them
the wheat seed until it can keep it separate from non-GE
wheat and demonstrate it has willing buyers for the
product. North American growers of GE corn, GE soy and
GE canola suffered price falls or constraints on sales
in some markets which resisted imports of those earlier
A Canadian government paper produced by its Department
of Agriculture and Food, said last year that production
of GE canola was adversely affecting the value of non-GE
canola in some markets, and the EU was effectively closed
to all Canadian GE canola.
Since 1998, Canada's annual sales of canola to Europe
had dropped from $C230 million ($NZ290.62 million) to
$C1.9 million a year.
Now the CWB has asked the Canadian government to analyse
the impact the wheat would have on markets before it
approves the variety - a step not currently required
In New Zealand, Greens co-leader Jeanette Fitzsimons
has said Monsanto's proposal for GE wheat to be used
in New Zealand foods was the most dangerous attempt
yet to force GE food on to New Zealanders as, unlike
other crops, GE wheat had not yet been grown commercially.
That meant there was even less information on GE wheat
than on other GE foods, she said. She also said scientific
information on the Roundup-tolerant wheat - which some
critics of the technology saw as important to formal
objections to its sale - was being held in Wellington,
with a single copy able to be viewed in Wellington for
a $25 fee.
New Zealanders have until March 31 to make submissions
to FSANZ on the issue.