Last month, Canada, the United States, and Australia announced unprecedented plans to join forces and commercialize genetically-engineered wheat, saying that biotechnology was crucial to the future of the wheat industry. The National Farmers Union of Canada, however, immediately refuted the tri-country claim, pointing out “the overwhelming majority of farmers in Canada are still opposed to the introduction of genetically-modified wheat.”
On June 1, fifteen organizations across Canada, the United States and Australia publicly confirmed that opposition with the release of “A Definitive Global Rejection of Genetically Engineered Wheat“, a powerful document speaking out against biotech wheat.
But the battle against GM wheat is not a simple one, nor is it restrained to select countries.
Money’s voice shouts more loudly than the voice of caution, and despite concern from consumers, genetic modification forges onward around the world. China has already dedicated millions of dollars to GM wheat. Kenya is poised to test GM wheat crops. Mexico is home to the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Centre, where GM wheat research is ongoing.
And then, enter Monsanto, with Roundup-Ready Wheat in one fist and Roundup in the other.
Monsanto’s massive success in swiftly gaining — or rather, overtaking — any particular market should not be taken lightly. Take Monsanto’s Roundup-Ready Sugar Beets, for instance. Grown commercially for the first time just last year, the genetically engineered beets will comprise over 90% of this year’s US sugar beet harvest. Monsanto seeks to gather the same widespread acceptance for Roundup-Ready Wheat. “We’re encouraged,” says Monsanto’s Trish Jordan. “There may be some opportunity for us to re-enter the wheat space” following the failed 2004 attempt.
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