November 17, 2004 (ENS): Six months after Monsanto
announced the withdrawal of its genetically modified
(GM) wheat before it hit the market, commercial introduction
of GM wheat still risks the loss of up to half of U.S.
wheat export markets and a large drop in price, according
to an Iowa grain market economist.
Widespread opposition from farm organizations, environmental
groups and consumers forced Monsanto to terminate its
research and promotion of genetically modified (GM)
wheat six months ago. In a news release dated May 10,
2004, Monsanto announced it "will discontinue breeding
and field level research of Roundup Ready wheat."
Roundup is Monsanto's herbicide product, and the wheat
was engineered for tolerance to Roundup.
"No new policy changes or trends have significantly
lowered the market risk of introducing genetically modified
wheat," said Dr. Robert Wisner, University Professor
of Economics at Iowa State University. "Consumer
resistance remains strong in Europe and Asia, and consumers
remain the driving force in countries where food labeling
Dr. Wisner’s conclusions are in an update released
today of his October 2003 report, Market Risks of Genetically
Modified Wheat, prepared for Western Organization of
Resource Councils (WORC), a regional network representing
farmers and ranchers in Wyoming, Montana, South Dakota,
North Dakota, Colorado, Idaho, and Oregon.
A survey by EuroBarometer published in March 2003 found
that most Europeans do not support GM foods or crops,
although the European Union has just lifted its five
year de facto moratorium on genetically modified crops.
Food safety is the main concern of foreign consumers,
said Wayne Fisher, a wheat grower near Dickinson, North
Dakota, and WORC spokesperson. "They don’t
trust genetically modified crops because there is no
independent testing by third parties or the U.S. government.
We need mandatory, independent testing."
Fisher said farmers are in jeopardy because food policy
has not kept up with the new environmental, legal, and
economic developments arising from GM crops.
"The companies developing genetically modified
seed have shielded themselves from risk, placing all
liability on farmers if something goes wrong,"
Montana wheat grower Helen Waller called for a time-out
on GM crops. "The biotech industry needs to slow
down, and policy makers need to catch up," Waller
"We’ve seen a drop in the U.S. share of
soybean exports to the European Union since commercialization
of GM soybeans and a loss of the EU corn market, said
Waller. "We can’t afford to jeopardize our
wheat export markets. We need legislative solutions
to protect our wheat farmers."
Waller and Fisher called on the Montana and North Dakota
legislatures to address liability issues in the 2005