Agriculture Canada could get GM wheat royalty

SASKATOON, Canada, November 30, 2003 -- CropChoice news -- CBC News, 11/28/03: CBC News has learned that Agriculture Canada stands to get money from the sale of Monsanto's Round-up Ready Wheat. Documents obtained by CBC reveal the government will be paid a kind of royalty from sales of the Monsanto product.

The documents obtained by CBC news reveal that Agriculture Canada has invested nearly $4 million in the development of Monsanto's product.

A portion of that royalty would be a direct cash injection, but most of it would be wages paid to Agriculture Canada researchers who have worked on the development of the genetically modified (GM) wheat and seed material.

If the wheat Agriculture Canada worked on is ever sold, the department would receive a percentage of the sales. That would amount to slightly less than five percent.

Bradford Duplessis, a reseacher with the Canadian Health Coalition, says there is a perception of conflict in this kind of relationship.

"To have a body that is supposed to be regulating GM crops, actually reporting to the Minister responsible for promoting GM crops...obviously there is a serious and dangerous conflict of interest there," he says.

Department officials deny there is a conflict. They say the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, an arms length branch of the department, is responsible for regulation of all food products.

Industry analyst Murray Fulton says more distance is needed in the case of something as controversial as GM wheat.

"It's going to require some extra work to really make sure that this issue doesn't get played out in such a way that the public begins to lose confidence in the process itself," he warns.

Fulton said it would be better if an independent body took responsibility of regulating GM crops.

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