Monsanto pulls applications for GM wheat except in U.S.

June 22, 2004 -- CropChoice news -- Toronto Star, 06/19/04: Monsanto Co. has formally withdrawn submissions for its genetically modified wheat from all regulatory agencies except the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, a company spokesperson said yesterday. The withdrawal is the last step in Monsanto's announcement last month that it would shelve plans to introduce the world's first GM wheat, spokesperson Chris Horner said. "It's a natural part of the process that we announced last month," Horner said.

Monsanto had asked for government approvals for the GM wheat in Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Russia, South Africa and Columbia, Horner said. The company and regulators in the countries "mutually agreed" that Monsanto should withdraw its submissions, he said. Monsanto had planned to commercialize the wheat for growth in Canada and the United States, but ran into opposition from export buyers who worried their consumers would reject it.

Canadian and U.S. farm groups and exporters worried that the modified wheat could not be kept separate from their traditional crops, putting other grains at risk of rejection from buyers. Environmental groups around the world also demonstrated against the wheat because of safety fears. Monsanto has said it would wait to resume work on the wheat, designed to resist applications of its Roundup weed killer, until other types of GM wheat are commercialized. In the U.S., Monsanto withdrew submissions to the U.S. department of agriculture and the Environmental Protection Agency, but will proceed with an application at the Food and Drug Administration. Approval there would establish that the wheat is safe for human and livestock consumption. "It would be one less regulatory approval to obtain, if and when that day ever comes," Horner said.

Approval from the FDA alone would not be enough to allow Monsanto to commercialize the wheat, he said. Monsanto withdrew all its feed, food and environmental applications in Canada, where the Canadian Wheat Board had threatened to sue the company if it received approvals. "Monsanto has made the right decision," said Louise Waldman, a spokesperson for the wheat board. The board continues to lobby Ottawa to change its regulatory process to consider the market effect of modified wheat before any decision, she said.

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