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Customer comes first biotechnology policy
Wheat Growers Call for Segregation

(30 June - Cropchoice News) -- Seeing the potential for GMOs to interfere with markets, wheat growers have called for the development of identity preserved systems before any biotech wheat hits the market. At a meeting this week, US Wheat adopted a new biotechnology policy saying "the U.S. wheat industry commits itself absolutely to the principle that our customers needs and preferences are the most important consideration."

Several seed companies are working on biotech wheat which could arrive in 2003. But according to US Wheat, customer concern is high enough that buyers are already advertizing their preferences to American wheat producers. Says US Wheat, "even at this early point, there are some overseas customers who have already informed the wheat industry that they only want to purchase traditional wheat."

Idaho wheat grower Heidi Linehan put it more bluntly: "85% of Idaho's wheat goes to overseas markets, and it is absolutely essential to listen to our overseas customers and heed what they say."

US Wheat is a farmer-funded organization which develops international markets for American farmers.

US Wheat's "customer comes first" stance is similar to the position of Tulsa-based American Corn Growers Association. ACGA's "Farmer Choice-Customer First" program has been loudly warning producers to protect markets by prioritizing international customer concerns about GMO corn.

A recent ACGA survey of corn growers concluded that 82% of American corn growers said that customers should have the right to choose between GMO and non-GMO corn. The same study said that more than three quarters of corn growers will plant fewer acres of GMO corn if elevators require segregation.

Neither US Wheat or ACGA is opposed to biotechnology; but the groups agree that markets should come first.

About half of US wheat production goes overseas. Major buyers include GMO-wary North African countries and Asian countries like Japan and South Korea, which are implementing mandatory labelling.

The US is the world's third biggest wheat producer after India and China. US competitors in global markets include Argentina, Australia, Canada, and France.