Missouri, March 17, 2004 -- CropChoice news -- Carey
Gillam, Reuters, 03/16/04: Monsanto Co. is
discussing with the U.S. wheat industry whether it should
be held to its promise not to release biotech wheat
in the United States unless it can simultaneously market
it in Canada, wheat industry officials said Tuesday.
Monsanto told top officials from wheat growers and
wheat marketing organizations over the weekend that
it was facing stiff opposition to its biotech wheat
product in Canada.
In a written presentation prepared for the meeting,
the company raised the possibility of "alternative
strategies" to the simultaneous U.S.-Canadian release
it has pledged to the wheat industry for more than a
U.S. wheat growers do not want Monsanto's biotech wheat
-- a spring wheat variety that would be the world's
first genetically modified wheat -- introduced only
in this country. They fear foreign buyers opposed to
biotech food products would shift their purchases to
Canada, the United States' top competitor for hard red
spring wheat sales.
Monsanto spokesman Michael Doane would not discuss
details of the weekend meeting, and stressed that the
company remained focused on releasing the controversial
new wheat after approvals were granted in both countries.
"Today we stay with our commitments," he
But wheat industry leaders confirmed Monsanto was putting
on the table the option of going ahead without Canadian
approval as regulatory clearances any time soon in Canada
"The reason people are starting to talk about
this scenario is it looks like it might run into serious
opposition in Canada," said National Association
of Wheat Growers CEO Daren Coppock.
"We have not flat out told them we will not discuss
alternatives, but it is our extremely strong preference
we remain on that track," he said.
U.S. Wheat Associates, which handles global marketing
issues for the U.S. wheat industry, said a U.S.-only
release would give the Canadians a distinct advantage.
"If we introduce and the Canadians do not that
would make it easier for countries to continue to insist
on buying from a country that is GM-free and it would
give Canada a distinct marketing advantage," said
U.S. Wheat President Alan Tracy.
Marketers like the Canadian Wheat Board have said export
buyers would reject Canadian wheat if Ottawa grants
approval to Monsanto's genetically modified wheat.
Canadian regulators do not currently consider market
impact in approving new crops, but the federal agriculture
department there is considering whether or not to widen
Monsanto's plans to introduce its biotech wheat, which
is resistant to the company's Roundup herbicide, have
sparked debate across the industry. While many farmers
fear they would lose sales to buyers unwilling to take
biotech crops, they want to take advantage of, and encourage
future development of, technology that could help them
reap more bountiful harvests.
The issue gained urgency after Monsanto in January
told industry leaders they must fully embrace the project
and help gain market acceptance or Monsanto may abandon
research into other wheat technologies.