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


Opposition to GE wheat growing, says Canadian Wheat Board

(Sunday, March 21, 2004 -- CropChoice news) -- Reuters, 03/19/04: WINNIPEG: World wheat buyers are increasingly opposed to genetically engineered (GE) wheat, says the Canadian Wheat Board, one of the world's largest wheat sellers.

The CWB, which has a monopoly on wheat and barley exports from Canada's main Prairie growing region, said buyers of 87 per cent of its wheat in the 2002-03 marketing year required guarantees that the wheat was not genetically engineered. That's up from 82 per cent two years ago, the board said in a statement.

The CWB's 10 highest volume markets all required the guarantee, including Japan, Mexico, Britain, Italy, Indonesia and Malaysia, as well as domestic millers, the board said.

Genetically engineered wheat is not yet grown in Canada, but regulators are examining a variety from Monsanto Co for food, feed and environmental safety.

Food safety bodies and other regulatory authorities around the world have been asked to approve the sale of products containing GE wheat, apparently in an effort to re-assure growers there will be markets open to their product if they grow the GE cultivar.

Monsanto has applied to Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) to allow its GE wheat to be introduced into the New Zealand food chain. Similar applications have been made in Canada, Australia and the United States.

Critics have raised concerns over its environmental impact and the difficulty of segregating GE from conventional wheat varieties. Wheat has special significance as a staple in the New Zealand diet. It is not just present in foods such as breads, cereals and pastas, but in a wide range of processed foods as a thickener. FSANZ has already approved 21 other GE crops for human consumption with a further five assessments pending.

Monsanto has promised farmers it will not sell them the wheat seed until it can keep it separate from non-GE wheat and demonstrate it has willing buyers for the product. North American growers of GE corn, GE soy and GE canola suffered price falls or constraints on sales in some markets which resisted imports of those earlier crops.

A Canadian government paper produced by its Department of Agriculture and Food, said last year that production of GE canola was adversely affecting the value of non-GE canola in some markets, and the EU was effectively closed to all Canadian GE canola.

Since 1998, Canada's annual sales of canola to Europe had dropped from $C230 million ($NZ290.62 million) to $C1.9 million a year.

Now the CWB has asked the Canadian government to analyse the impact the wheat would have on markets before it approves the variety - a step not currently required by law.

In New Zealand, Greens co-leader Jeanette Fitzsimons has said Monsanto's proposal for GE wheat to be used in New Zealand foods was the most dangerous attempt yet to force GE food on to New Zealanders as, unlike other crops, GE wheat had not yet been grown commercially.

That meant there was even less information on GE wheat than on other GE foods, she said. She also said scientific information on the Roundup-tolerant wheat - which some critics of the technology saw as important to formal objections to its sale - was being held in Wellington, with a single copy able to be viewed in Wellington for a $25 fee.

New Zealanders have until March 31 to make submissions to FSANZ on the issue.

Meanwhile, farmers and Greenpeace have launched ads against genetically engineered wheat, according to the following news release.

REGINA, March 19 /CNW/ - Greenpeace, the National Farmers Union, the Saskatchewan Organic D ctorate and the Canadian Organic Growers today announced the launch of an advertising campaign aimed at ending the proposed commercialization of Monsanto's genetically modified (GM) Roundup Ready wheat, and criticized the Western Producer for refusing to run the ad.

The print advertisement states "The Greatest Threat to Wheat Farming Isn't Hail or Drought. It's Roundup Ready(TM) Wheat" and requests that farmers contact Western Liberal Finance Minister Ralph Goodale, or Minister Responsible for the Canadian Wheat Board Reg Alcock to express their opposition to GM wheat. The ad will run in the Ottawa Hill Times on Monday, March 22nd and in the Farmers Independent Weekly and the Saskatoon Star Phoenix on March 25th. Space has also been booked in the Regina Leader Post on March 25th. The Western Producer, the largest farm paper in Western Canada, indicated yesterday that they are refusing to run the ad.

"Monsanto has made it clear that they will not back off GM wheat, so we believe it is up to the federal government to reject it," said Pat Venditti, Greenpeace Canada GE Campaigner. "By failing to say no to this product, the Liberal government is putting the economy and the environment in this country in jeopardy. We are disappointed that the Western Producer is refusing to print the ad given the importance of this issue."

"The National Farmers Union is extremely concerned about the possible introduction of GM wheat and the impact it will have on farmers," said Darrin Qualman, National Farmers Union Director of Research. "We are hoping that these ads will help to mobilize farmers to challenge the government in the run-up to the federal election. Ottawa needs to know that farmers do not support GM wheat."

Greenpeace, the NFU, SOD and COG are not alone in their concerns. Yesterday, the Canadian Wheat Board released information showing that 87 per cent of Canada's wheat customers now require guarantees that they are not getting genetically modified wheat. As well, a poll conducted by Decima research for Greenpeace in March, 2003 showed that 60% of Canadians would avoid products made with GM wheat. Over 90% of Canadians polled have consistently stated they want labels on foods containing GM ingredients.

"The government is talking a lot about protecting farmers - let's see them act," said Arnold Taylor of the Saskatchewan Organic Directorate. "GM wheat should be stopped in its tracks and that's what this advertising campaign is all about. If the Liberals want support in the West, they need to say no to Roundup Ready wheat."

"Genetically modified crops like Roundup Ready wheat are a real threat to the livelihoods of organic producers," said Barb Bell of Canadian Organic Growers. "We say no to Roundup Ready wheat."

For further information: Pat Venditti, Greenpeace GE Campaigner, cell: (416) 450-2439;
Darrin Qualman, Director of Research, National Farmers Union, (306) 492-4714;
Arnold Taylor, President, Saskatchewan Organic Directorate, (306) 252-2783;
Barb Bell, Canadian Organic Growers, (306) 543-1146