TORONTO, 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
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 Greenpeace.
"It could pose a serious threat to Canada's ability to export
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
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,"
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
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
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 destroyed."
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