Natural Foods Merchandiser

Monsanto Mulls GM Wheat Production

If wheat growers don?t enthusiastically embrace seeds genetically modified to resist herbicides, Monsanto Co. may drop its push to introduce the crop, company officials said.

At a wheat industry convention in January, Michael Doane, Monsanto?s director of wheat industry affairs, told attendees that without ?full farmer support,? the company?s ?limited resources? wouldn?t permit pursuing the issue, according to a report on

In a parallel move, Monsanto Vice President Kerry Preete sent a letter to wheat leaders, according to published reports. Emphasizing the company?s investment in GM wheat, the letter said Monsanto needs a ?a corresponding level of commitment from U.S. wheat growers to form a full partnership in the creation of timely solutions to key customer acceptance issues.? Monsanto did not return calls from NFM.

Michael Rodemeyer, executive director of the Pew Initiative on Food and Biotechnology, said no new GM commodities for either human or animal consumption have been introduced in the last five years?a relatively long stretch, given the technology?s rapid trajectory. For that reason, he said, ?The bellwether is going to be wheat, and if wheat growers accept this new technology.?

The technology promises to make farming simpler for large growers. ?Farmers like the technology,? Rodemeyer said. However, it may not be economically advantageous to pursue it. Many of the U.S. wheat industry?s international trade partners have threatened to boycott American wheat if GM wheat seeds are introduced, citing unknown effects on human health and the environment. Consumers, Rodemeyer said, have similar concerns. ?In agriculture, the benefits [of biotechnology] go to the producers, while the risks are borne by consumers.?

According to another report, Monsanto Chairman Hugh Grant told shareholders he was optimistic about rolling out biotech wheat, noting that the company was positioned to gain 15 percent in revenue annually from biotech crops.

If the federal government approves the introduction of GM wheat for humans, consumers will likely climb on board, said Rodemeyer, citing a study showing that 83 percent of Americans trust the FDA when it comes to food safety.

Natural Foods Merchandiser volume XXV/number 3/p. 24

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