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April 24, 2008
Monsanto Corp. has petitioned the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Animal Plant Health Inspection Service to approve its Roundup Ready wheat variety. If approved, the biotech crop, which is genetically engineered to withstand applications of Monsanto's Roundup herbicide, could be in breads and other human foods by the summer of 2004.
But wheat farmers and grain-elevator operators are concerned that quick approval of the biotech wheat could result in lost sales to food companies in the United States and especially in Europe, Australia, China and Japan, where labeling of genetically modified foods is required.
Ninety-eight percent of North Dakota grain-elevator operators surveyed said they were either "very concerned" or "somewhat concerned" about the proposed introduction of Roundup Ready wheat, according to the Minneapolis-based Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy.
Seventy-eight percent of the survey's 52 respondents said that they supported a more comprehensive public review of the biotech wheat than what the USDA has previously conducted on biotech crops.
The USDA's review of the wheat should be strictly scientific, said the National Association of Wheat Growers in an April letter sent to USDA Secretary Anne Veneman. In March, Veneman received a legal petition filed by agricultural and environmental groups requesting that a federal moratorium be placed on Roundup Ready wheat.
Steve Taormina is the standards coordinator for New Hope Natural Media.
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