Canada, August 19, 2004 -- CropChoice news -- Colin
Perkel, Canadian Press, 08/17/04(CP): Field
trials of genetically modified wheat are still being
conducted in Canada despite a pledge earlier this year
by multinational biotech giant Monsanto that the testing
would be abandoned, critics said Tuesday.
In a letter to Greenpeace Canada late last month, the
Canadian Food Inspection Agency confirmed that 16 Monsanto
trials of so-called Roundup Ready wheat are continuing
"to allow researchers to complete their research."
Greenpeace, one of several environmental groups opposed
to the trials, said Monsanto should have torn up the
fields as it said it would.
"The trials are a danger for both the environment
and for the potential for release for farmers,"
said Pat Venditti, genetic engineering campaigner for
"It could pose a serious threat to Canada's ability
to export wheat crops."
While Monsanto acknowledged the trials were ongoing,
it said they were to allow non-Monsanto scientists and,
in one case, a graduate student to finish their research
for "academic and publishing requirements,"
said spokeswoman Trish Jordan.
"Monsanto is not doing field trials," Jordan
said from Winnipeg.
Another 22 test sites were destroyed, she said.
A food inspection agency spokesman said the trials
at eight undisclosed locations cover about 3.4 hectares.
"These are not Monsanto trials per se," said
Phil Macdonald, the agency's acting director for plant
bio-safety in Ottawa.
Still, Greenpeace said they should have been abandoned.
"We don't think there should be any field trials
of this crop . . . particularly if it's not going to
be commercialized," Venditti said.
Genetically modifying crops involves manipulating their
genetic material to produce special characteristics.
In May, Monsanto declared it would "discontinue
breeding and field-level research" into wheat resistant
to the popular herbicide Roundup.
Many export markets, Japan and the European Union among
them, have warned they would stop buying wheat from
Canada if any of it is genetically modified.
Monsanto's decision followed a campaign by critics
who argue that little is known about the impact of genetically
altered crops on the environment or human health.
Also, a government report in January suggested farmers
would need to use more pesticides if the wheat were
to be widely cultivated.
Monsanto also withdrew requests to Ottawa to allow
unconfined environmental release of the crop and assessments
of the wheat's safety for animals and people.
While Ottawa insists it has tough rules to isolate
the fields, critics maintain there are no guarantees
contamination of other fields won't occur.
"It is worrisome they would be doing this,"
said Marc Loiselle of the Organic Agriculture Protection
Fund in Hague, Sask.
"The understanding was that all trials were to
be abandoned and . . . existing test plots would be
Citing concerns about vandalism, the federal government
refused to disclose the locations of the plots.
The secrecy is another problem, Venditti said.
"If you are a farmer or producer half a mile or
100 yards from a genetically engineered wheat trial,
you have no way of knowing if what's growing next door
is genetically engineered," Venditti said.