WINNIPEG, 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
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
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 by law.
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.