Organisations representing the wheat industry in the USA, Canada and Australia have said they will work towards the common goal of synchronized commercialisation of genetically modified wheat crops. Non-governments agencies content that commercialisation of GM wheat will not solve the intended issues of yield and nutrition.
Stating that "none of us hold a veto over the actions of others," the participating organisations said it was in the best interest of all three producer communities to introduce biotechnology in a coordinated fashion to minimize market disruption.
The announcement came in a statement of joint principles on the issue of biotechnology in wheat, which has been a sensitive subject in some parts of the world, including major export markets in Europe and Asia. There is currently no commercial production of genetically modified wheat anywhere in the world.
The statement highlighted the importance of wheat to food supplies and declining acres in all three countries, due in part to competition from crops that have the advantages of biotech traits. The statement also noted the slow growth trend of wheat yields compared to other crops and the lack of public and private investment in wheat research worldwide.
The groups argued: "One important tool to help feed the world into the future is biotechnology. Basic agronomic improvements to wheat like strengthening disease and insect resistance, enhancing wheat's use of soil nutrients and water, increasing its tolerance to weather extremes like drought and frost, are all
Not all are in agreement that biotech increases wheat yields. "Although the biotech industry likes to give the impression that the technology increases yield and farmer income, the data doesn't support this. A recent in-depth analysis of GM crop data worldwide—called Failure to Yield—demonstrated that the average GM crop reduces yield. And a USDA study in 2006 also concluded that GMOs do not increase farmer income. In the case of wheat, an economist's report projected a loss of 30%-50% of US exports and a drop in prices by up to a third, if GM wheat was introduced," says Jeffrey Smith, Executive Director of Responsible Technology, a non-profit dedicated to non-GMO agriculture policy and consumer truth in labelling claims.
"Another critical area for biotechnology is to improve the nutritional aspects of wheat to facilitate healthier living for people all over the world. Biotechnology is not the only answer to these questions, but it will be a significant component in solutions."
Smith added that biotech as definitive solution to malnutrition is lacking in support from physicians. "We are seeing a time a greater pushback against GMOs. On May 19th, for example, the American Academy of Environmental Medicine released their policy which asks doctors to prescribe non-GMO diets. They conclude that studies show GMOs cause harm to animals. Introducing GM wheat at this time could have an enormously negative impact on sales, causing unprecedented losses to wheat farmers."
US organisations signing onto the statement included the National Association of Wheat Growers, US Wheat Associates and the North American Millers' Association.
Canadian signatories included Grain Growers of Canada, the Western Canadian Wheat Growers Association and the Alberta Winter Wheat Producers Commission.
Australian signatories included the Grains Council of Australia, the Grain Growers Association and the Pastoralists & Graziers Association of Western Australia.
The full statement can be viewed here: http://www.wheatworld.org/userfiles/file/FINAL%20Trilateral%20Biotech%20Statement.pdf.
The Institute for Responsible Technology can be viewed here: