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Many countries would rather not import genetically modified wheat, according to USDA survey results

(Monday, March 15, 2004 -- CropChoice news) -- Reuters, 03/15/04: WASHINGTON - Results of a new U.S. survey of global attitudes toward genetically modified wheat indicate widespread opposition or uncertainty about imports if the product were to be approved for commercial sales.

Some major grain-importing countries would refuse to buy genetically modified wheat if it became commercially available, or are uncertain of their reaction, according to the survey by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

The survey results, obtained by Reuters, also found that key countries such as Japan and South Korea might even refuse non-biotech wheat from a country if it approved just one variety of biotech wheat.

St. Louis-based Monsanto Co. (nyse: MON - news - people) has petitioned the U.S. Department of Agriculture to approve the world's first genetically modified wheat. "Roundup Ready" wheat would be modified to tolerate applications of Monsanto's Roundup weedkiller.

USDA's Foreign Agricultural Service offices around the world provided answers to a series of questions about host countries' stances toward biotech wheat.

The survey, requested by the U.S. wheat industry, mostly backed up widely held views that European and Asian countries have serious concerns about biotech wheat, including fears about its impact on the environment and human health.

The survey covered the one-year period ending November, 2003.

Asked whether host countries would buy biotech wheat, only the FAS officers stationed in Pakistan, Peru, Sri Lanka and Yemen responded affirmatively.

FAS officials in 17 countries, including top importer Japan and seventh-largest importer, South Korea, all responded negatively.

A "don't know" response came from FAS offices in 32 countries, including major wheat importers Mexico, Philippines and Taiwan.

Monsanto has said that if its biotech wheat is approved, it would not market the product until there was consumer acceptance of the product.

U.S. wheat farmers have been engaged in a spirited debate over whether a genetically modified crop would be a boon or burden to their industry.

But 81 percent of farmers attending an American Farm Bureau Federation convention in January surveyed by Reuters said the U.S. and Canadian governments should approve Monsanto's application.

The United States, the world's largest wheat exporter, is projected by USDA to ship more than 31 million metric tons abroad this year.

Source: http://www.forbes.com/markets/newswire/2004/03/12/rtr1297493.html