E-mail this article to
yourself or a friend.
Enter address:


Montana legislature hears, ignores economist's warnings on biotech wheat, and Monsanto gains federal approval for new modified corn variety

(Wednesday, Feb. 26, 2003 -- CropChoice news) -- Iowa State University economist Robert Wisner's testimony to the Montana state legislature that the introduction of genetically modified wheat could drop the prices for hard red spring and durum wheat by more than one-third wasn't enough.

The state's Senate Agriculture Committee killed two bills aimed at protecting growers of non-genetically engineered wheat.

Senate Bill 244 would have mandated that transgenic wheat patent holders provide instructions with the seed on the creation of buffer zones between modified and conventional wheat. The instructions would have to be as inclusive as federal laws.

The other bill would have required patent holders to post a $10 million bond to pay for any crop losses caused by genetic contamination.

Meanwhile, the Environmental Protection Agency gave the nod to Monsanto to commercialize YieldGard Rootworm corn, engineered with Bt to kill the rootworm. USDA estimates that the pest costs corn growers about $1 billion annually.

The panel of scientists advising EPA on the matter urged it to take seriously the issue of rootworms developing resistance to the Bt over time, rendering the new variety useless. According to the Washington Post: "...Most members of a scientific advisory panel had urged the EPA to require farmers to plant sizable 'refuges,' or strips of conventional corn, around the genetically altered crops to provide food for the rootworm and slow the pests' ability to develop a resistance to the new corn variety. Panel members wanted the EPA to require that 50 percent of a farmer's cornfield be planted as refuges, while Monsanto pushed for 20 percent, similar to requirements already in place for other crops. The EPA sided with Monsanto."

Sources: Dow Jones, Billings Gazette (http://www.billingsgazette.com/index.php?id=1&display=rednews/2003/02/25/build/local/lxgr-biotech.inc, Reuters, Washington Post (http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A2177-2003Feb25.html