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U.S. wheat industry reps, Japanese grain millers to discuss transgenic wheat

(April 3, 2001 --Cropchoice news) -- Rather than traveling to Japan to "sell the country on transgenic wheat," as Cropchoice reported on March 29, four industry representatives are going there next week -- on invitation from the Japan office of U.S. Wheat Associates -- to discuss the issue with grain millers.

"As the wheat industry in the U.S. works to set up a grain handling system that would keep genetically modified wheat and conventional wheat separate, within acceptable tolerances, USW wanted American farmers to meet their customers and to hear their concerns," said Dawn Forsythe, director of Public Affairs for U.S. Wheat Associates. "We expect that the team will gain a good understanding of Japanese needs and preferences."

Monsanto wants to introduce its Roundup Ready wheat, designed to resist the Roundup weed killer, sometime between 2003 and 2005.

But, Japan, which buys large amounts of U.S. wheat, has repeatedly said that it does not want and will not buy Monsanto's new product.

In February, the Japan Flour Millers Association issued the following statement about transgenics, including wheat:

``Japanese consumers are highly suspicious and skeptical about safety of GM farm products, which may be hazardous to human health and environment... Under the circumstances, flour millers strongly doubt that any bakery, noodle and confectionary products made of GM wheat or even conventional wheat that may contain GM wheat will be accepted in the Japanese market.''

On Sunday, Japan was to launch a new ``zero tolerance'' policy on any transgenic food imports that have not been approved. The new guidelines also will require that all such foods be labeled.

Although Monsanto has stated that it will not introduce Roundup Ready wheat until it has U.S. and Japanese regulatory approval, it has said nothing about acceptance. This means that even if the government approves the product, food processors don't have to buy it.

Source: Reuters, U.S. Wheat Associates