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Iowa State University economist predicts genetically engineered wheat will harm U.S. spring wheat exports

(Thursday, Oct. 30, 2003 -- CropChoice news) -- A study prepared by Robert Wisner, Ph.D. - a leading grain market economist at Iowa State University - shows the commercial introduction of the wheat Monsanto's genetically engineered wheat in the next two to six years could cause major risk to the U.S. wheat industry. After examining data on existing markets, consumer trends, and grain handling and transportation systems, Wisner concluded that the commercial introduction of this wheat designed to resist Roundup, Mosnanto's trade name for the glyphosate herbicide, in the next two to six years could result in the loss of 30 to 50 percent of U.S. spring wheat export markets.

Montana and North Dakota are the country's major hard red spring wheat growing states.

"As farmers, we've all weathered drought, floods, hail, grasshoppers, - you name it. But nothing can compare to the disaster we'll face if the commercial introduction of genetically engineered wheat drives our buyers away," said wheat grower Helen Waller during a news conference today. "There are many unknowns about genetically engineered wheat. Scientists are as yet unsure of its impacts to the environment and public health. Regulators, in the meantime, are unsure how to regulate it.

"Amidst this uncertainty, there's one thing that's absolutely certain: the commercial introduction of genetically engineered wheat into Montana, North Dakota, and other wheat-producing states will damage our valuable export markets," said Waller, a member of the conservation and family farming advocacy group the Northern Plains Resource Council, based in Montana, which has an $800 million wheat industry.

"In Montana, we export two out of three bushels of our wheat to the Asian countries of Japan, the Philippines, South Korea, and Taiwan. Consumers in these countries don't want genetically engineered wheat, and because of labeling laws, they have a choice. Top buyers from these countries have repeatedly indicated that they won't buy wheat from Montana or North Dakota - or even from the United States - if genetically engineered wheat is commercially introduced. "

The prospect of genetically engineered wheat and its market effects also concerns North Dakota farmers and policymakers.

"Dr. Wisner's report confirms what most in the Wheat industry have feared all along, that GMO wheat will have a drastic negative impact on U.S. wheat farmers," said Todd Leake, who grows hard red spring wheat, soybeans, dry edible beans and sunflowers in North Dakota. "Of course for over three years, our wheat customers in many nations and regions have told us directly that they will not purchase GMO wheat and will go elsewhere to procure their wheat supplies. In a world awash in cheap wheat It's no hard to find another country to gladly take that wheat business away from us."

North Dakota state Sen. April Fairfield: "In 1999, the Legislature decided to study the potential impacts of genetically modified wheat in North Dakota. The findings of that study were, to say the least, onerous. In 2001 the North Dakota House of Representatives, of which I was a member, passed a two-year moratorium on the commercial release of genetically modified wheat. The Senate Agriculture Committee voted to turn than bill into another legislative study. The Chair of that committee was the previous Senator from District 29, whom I subsequently defeated in the election of 2002.

"In 2003 I introduced legislation that would have established an approval process for the commercial release of genetically modified wheat, giving North Dakotans and their elected officials a voice in the decision of when genetically modified wheat should be commercially released in North Dakota. That bill was narrowly defeated in the North Dakota Senate, along with legislation intended to address farmers' liability in growing genetically modified crops. "As a state senator and a citizen of North Dakota I intend to do everything in my power to change public policy to give the citizens and especially our farmers a voice in deciding when the market is ready for genetically modified wheat and the tools to protect their markets until that happens."

Links to the study and to full statements at today's press conference available at: http://www.worc.org/issues/gmo_temp.html#

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