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Top UK miller to cut North America wheat if GM okayed

(Wednesday, June 4, 2003 -- CropChoice news) -- Ben Harding, Reuters, 06/03/03: LONDON - Britain's biggest flour miller Rank Hovis said on Tuesday it would stop using North American wheat if the United States or Canada began commercial planting of GM varieties as it might contaminate non-GM grain during shipment.

Hovis' Wheat Director Peter Jones said if large-scale opposition to genetically modified (GM) food continued among Britons, Hovis would have to import high-protein grain from countries such as Germany or Australia to avoid gene altered material creeping into its bread.

"If in a few years time the British public still felt the same way about GM when this wheat might be grown commercially, we wouldn't be able to use it," Jones told Reuters.

Late last week, U.S. industry sources said tests revealed traces of GM material were finding its way into U.S. wheat supplies.

"We say that the U.S. and Canada should beware. They export a lot of grain," Jones said.

The United States and Canadian wheat accounts for about 40 percent of world exports of 98.3 million tonnes.

GM wheat has yet to hit the market, but in January U.S. biotech giant Monsanto (NYSE:MON - News) announced plans to release a genetically modified spring wheat variety, which could potentially cripple North American wheat exports.

Many countries that buy grain from the United States refuse to purchase GM varieties.

Last week, the Canadian Wheat Board pleaded with Monsanto to drop its bid for regulatory approval of the GM grain.

About 10 percent of the five million tonnes of grain Hovis bakes every year comes from the United States and Canada and is used in its higher-grade bread.

Jones said Hovis already finds the odd piece soybean or corn in its North American wheat that was probably genetically modified, but was sifted out during processing.

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