says biotech wheat approvals on track
January 26, 2004 -- CropChoice
news -- Carey Gillam, Reuters: Monsanto
Co. said on Monday its genetically modified
wheat seed should soon receive its first
regulatory approvals from the U.S. government,
and that will help it promote the biotech
crop to regulatory agencies in other countries.
The Food and Drug Administration, which
is assessing the safety of Monsanto's Roundup
Ready herbicide-resistant wheat for human
and animal consumption, is expected to approve
the product "in the near future,"
said Monsanto wheat industry affairs director
"That will be the first regulatory
assurance on safety," Doane said. "That
is important. We will use that for demonstration
of safety to submit to other countries."
Monsanto's biotech wheat would be the world's
first genetically modified crop to be used
primarily for human food.
The St. Louis, Missouri-based company said
it is still awaiting a key approval from
the U.S. Department of Agriculture after
recently responding to questions raised
by the agency.
Monsanto officials were attending the annual
U.S. wheat industry convention in Atlanta,
Georgia, giving wheat growers a progress
report on biotech wheat and seeking their
help in gaining its acceptance in the market.
The company has said 2004 will be a critical
year in winning favor for the controversial
product. It plans a biotech wheat newsletter
for growers which will be mailed in the
United States and Canada in early February.
Through industry groups and surveys, U.S.
wheat growers have generally shown enthusiasm
for Monsanto's technology. The bioengineered
spring wheat variety now under development
is designed to help farmers control weeds
and reap higher yields.
But growers are concerned about the potential
loss of sales to overseas customers. Several
major importers avoid buying genetically
modified foods, and they have warned that
they would buy elsewhere if biotech wheat
is approved in the United States.
ATLANTA, Georgia, January 26, 2004, CropChoice
news/Reuters, 01/24/04: U.S. wheat industry
leaders must fully embrace Monsanto Co's . planned genetically
modified wheat and assist the company in gaining market
acceptance or the leading biotech developer may abandon
its wheat research efforts, a Monsanto official said
"If full farmer support is not pledged, that could
be construed as shifting our focus to other crops,"
said Monsanto's director of wheat industry affairs,
"As we look at our business initiatives and our
scarce resources ... we need to understand the level
of farmer support," Doane said.
He made his comments at a meeting with top wheat industry
players at the industry's annual convention in Atlanta.
The request by Monsanto was also spelled out in a letter
given to officials of the farmer-controlled National
Association of Wheat Growers, and to U.S. Wheat Associates,
which handles international marketing for U.S. wheat.
The letter asks that for "public acknowledgment
of your full support for the timely de-regulation and
commercialization of Roundup Ready wheat;" "strong
alignment" in support from "state and allied
constituents;" and asks that farm leaders develop
and execute a strategic plan to "satisfactorily
address public acceptance issues" in the U.S. and
Public acceptance for biotech wheat has been a hot-button
issue as Monsanto has moved forward with regulatory
applications for what would be the world's first genetically
modified crop primarily used for human food.
U.S. Wheat Associates officials have repeatedly warned
that many top foreign buyers of U.S. wheat have threatened
to stop buying from the United States if a biotech wheat
is brought to market.
Opposition is particularly strong in the European Union,
which bought more than $220 million of U.S. wheat in
Domestic millers and other American users of U.S. wheat
have also expressed reservations about buying Monsanto's
biotech wheat, which has been genetically altered to
resist applications of Monsanto's Roundup herbicide.
"I understand where Monsanto is coming from. ...
At some point you have to decide whether or not you
consider funding research," said Lance Hagen, executive
director of North Dakota Grain Growers Association.
"But they have to understand where growers are
coming from, too."
Duane Grant, a member of a wheat industry biotech committee
that has been monitoring Monsanto's plans, said there
were concerns that had to be addressed before the industry
could fully partner with Monsanto.
"I'm not comfortable saying I'm ready to go arm
in arm with Monsanto," Grant said. "We have
to be careful not to let our policies get dictated around
a specific product."
Doane said the company was not asking growers to do
anything more than it had asked of soybean and corn
growers when it introduced biotech products to those
"We have a pipeline that is very full right now
and a lot of those applications are in crops other than
wheat," Doane said. "We need a timely response."