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ADM chief tells Canadian farmers to be wary of genetically modified wheat

(Thursday, April 8, 2004 -- CropChoice news) -- Roberta Rampton, Reuters, 04/07/04: WINNIPEG, Manitoba - Canada and its farmers need to tread gingerly when considering how to approve and handle genetically modified wheat, the chief executive of Archer Daniels Midland Co., one of the world's largest food processors, said yesterday.

ADM does not advocate for or against genetically modified crops, but rather focuses on giving customers what they want, G. Allen Andreas told Reuters on the sidelines of the Canada Grains Council conference.

"So if you get a lot of backlash across the world of people who are not interested in consuming bread that is made with genetically enhanced wheat, then farmers clearly have to take a very serious look at this, and so does the country of Canada," Andreas said.

Canadian and U.S. regulators are examining the food, feed and environmental safety of a variety of genetically modified wheat from Monsanto Co. designed to withstand a popular weedkiller.

Monsanto has promised it will not commercialize the wheat until it can keep it separate from traditional wheat, and demonstrate it has willing buyers for the product.

But the possibility of government approvals has caused alarm for the Canadian Wheat Board, which has a monopoly on bread wheat sales from Canada's main growing region.

The CWB has said buyers of 87 percent of its wheat in the 2002-03 marketing year required guarantees the wheat was not genetically modified.

The CWB worries government approval of the wheat would render those guarantees worthless, even if Monsanto holds back from selling seed to farmers.

Andreas said he thinks it's inevitable that farmers will have more genetically modified crops to grow in the future, and said he believes consumers are coming around to the idea of GM wheat.

"But to be the pioneer out there when the rest of the world doesn't accept your product is not something that you should ask of any farmer of any country today," Andreas said.

ADM owns more than 20 percent of Agricore United, Canada's largest grain company.