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


North Dakota senators re-write transgenic wheat legislation

(April 2, 2001 --Cropchoice news)-- The North Dakota State Senate this afternoon voted down two amendments that would have returned legislation regarding transgenic wheat to its original form.

The first amendment to House Bill 1338 called for a two-year moratorium on the sale of transgenic wheat seeds. The second created a certification board that would decide whether to authorize the sale and planting of such seeds after the moratorium expires.

"They would have taken the power out of the Monsanto boardroom and vested it in the state of North Dakota," said Todd Leake, North Dakota wheat farmer and proponent of the original bill.

The measure was meant to address concerns among farmers that Asian and European farmers will reject U.S. wheat if Monsanto pushes ahead with its plans to commercialize Roundup Ready wheat -- genetically modified to resist the company's herbicide Roundup -- sometime between 2003 and 2005.

Both the moratorium and the certification board were critical components of the original legislation that passed both the House Agriculture Committee (14-0) and the full House.

After taking up HB 1338 in mid-March, the Senate Agriculture Committee on Friday replaced the moratorium and the certification board and with a two-year study of the wheat. That's what the full Senate today voted to keep.

The bill now goes to the full House for a vote. If its members don't concur, then the measure heads to conference committee.

"Isn't it amazing how we never learn?" Leake said. "After the StarLink debacle and given the fact that Brazil is taking away markets for non-transgenic soybeans, now we're going to do the same with wheat. We're going to cripple another sector of the agriculture economy with our science and ignore our customers (who don't want transgenic wheat)."

Proponents of the moratorium have reported that Monsanto applied pressure to legislators to effectively kill HB 1338. They testified that the company would withdraw all support for agriculture research in the state.

"I don't really care if they do or don't at this point," Leake said. "We were doing just fine before they showed up."

Monsanto spokesman Mark Buckingham on Friday told Reuters that it did not believe the moratoriums were necessary.

"We need to be careful and watch out for market acceptance issues, but we are proceeding in a responsible way and can get those issues resolved before the product comes to market," Buckingham said. "We think that biotech current products and future products, particularly in wheat, can have important benefits."

If moratorium proponents ultimately fail in the North Dakota legislature, Leake said that they'll "take it to the next level, which is the federal government." He does, however, question the likelihood of their success given Monsanto's influence in Washington, D.C.

Todd Leake farms 1,400 acres of wheat and 1,000 acres of row crops west of Grand Forks, ND. He also serves on the board of directors of the Emerado Farmers Co-op Elevator.