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Public to debate genetically engineered wheat in Montana

(Friday, April 9, 2004 -- CropChoice news) -- The Prairie Star: BOZEMAN - Area residents curious about the controversy surrounding the possible introduction of genetically engineered wheat into Montana are invited to attend a free public debate at Montana State University.

The presentation will begin at 7 p.m. on April 13 in the Student Union Building's Northwest Lounge at Montana State University-Bozeman.

"Cause for Controversy: Genetically Engineered Wheat and Montana's $800 Million Wheat Industry" will feature advocates from both sides of the issue, including farmers who fear genetically engineered wheat will cost them valuable export markets and seed breeders and sellers who whole-heartedly support the new technology. Speakers will include Luther Talbert, MSU Experiment Station Spring Wheat Breeder; Dan Biggerstaff, Vice President of WestBred, LLC; Montana Senator John Tester, D-Big Sandy; Arlo Skari, Chester wheat farmer; and Russ Wahl, Cut Bank wheat farmer.

Montana is the third largest producer of hard red spring wheat, a high protein variety valued for baking, in the United States. Roughly 60 percent of Montana's wheat is exported to Asian buyers in Japan, Taiwan, South Korea, and the Philippines.

Monsanto, Inc. plans to introduce its genetically engineered "Roundup Ready" hard red spring wheat into Montana and other states as early as 2005. Grain handling systems are currently not equipped to segregate genetically engineered grains from more traditional varieties. Further, Asian buyers of Montana's wheat have repeatedly said they will go elsewhere for their wheat if genetically engineered wheat is grown anywhere in the state.

Cause for Controversy is sponsored by the Northern Plains Resource Council and Montana Farmers Union. For more information, contact Amy Frykman at 406-582-1169 or e-mail to amy@northernplains.org.