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The Biotech Industry Faces Its Biggest Battle To Date- GE Wheat

News Update From The Campaign to Label Genetically Engineered Foods -The Campaign to Label Genetically Engineered Foods
Protesters fear consequences of GM wheat trials
- Winnipeg bureau
Big grain coalition opposes GM wheat
- Ottawa Bureau
Lobby wants science, not consumers to decide
- Ottawa Bureau
Market 'risk' once part of process -
Ottawa Bureau
GM wheat dividing Canadian industry
- Saskatoon Newsroom

News Update From The Campaign to Label Genetically Engineered Foods
----------------------------------------------------------------------

Dear News Update Subscribers,

The biggest battle yet in the history of genetically engineered foods is
rapidly developing. The crop of controversy is wheat. The primary
battlegrounds will be the United States and Canada. The whole world will
be watching.

FIRST, A BRIEF HISTORY OF BIOTECH FOODS

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved the sale of
unlabeled genetically engineered foods in 1992. The first genetically
engineered food to be sold commercially was the Favr Sarv tomato in
1994. It was a commercial flop.
http://www.fda.gov/bbs/topics/NEWS/NEW00482.html

In 1996, the first wide-scale commercial planting of genetically
engineered crops took place. Five million acres of genetically
engineered corn and soybeans were planted and very few people were
paying attention. It was a couple years later before opponents of
genetically engineered crops organized themselves to start effectively
challenging these experimental foods.

In 1998, the European Union (EU) implemented labeling requirements on
genetically engineered corn and soybeans. Plus, the EU enacted a
moratorium to prevent any new genetically engineered crops from being
imported. The EU moratorium is still in effect. Rather than labeling
products as containing genetically engineered corn and soy, food
manufacturers and restaurants removed genetically engineered ingredients
from their products in Europe.

While Europeans are essentially not eating any genetically engineered
foods, most U.S. citizens are eating them every day. So now the U.S. is
preparing to take World Trade Organization (WTO) action to force the
Europeans into removing the moratorium on importing America's
genetically engineered crops. And the U.S. is likely to charge that the
EU labeling requirements are an illegal trade barrier.

Since the first wide-scale commercial planting in 1996, the acreage of
genetically engineered crops in the United States has rapidly increased.
In 2003, nearly 90 million acres of genetically engineered crops will be
planted in the United States. This represents about 70 percent of the
total amount of genetically engineered crops being grown in the entire
world.

The world's second largest grower of genetically engineered crops is
Argentina followed by Canada and China. Only a handful of other
countries are growing limited quantities of biotech crops. No
genetically engineered crops are being commercially grown in the 15
European Union nations.

MONSANTO AND BIOTECH WHEAT - THE MAJOR BATTLE

By far, the world's largest producer of genetically engineered crops is
Monsanto. However, Argentina, the second largest grower of biotech
crops, has been in a serious economic crisis for the past two years with
no end in sight. And Monsanto has been losing money -- big time.

If Monsanto can begin selling genetically engineered wheat in the United
States and Canada, the company may be able to start earning profits
again. So Monsanto has a strong interest in getting genetically
engineered wheat into commercial production in North America.

For several years, the U.S. and Canadian wheat industries have opposed
the introduction of genetically engineered wheat. However, that changed
dramatically in January of this year at a meeting of wheat industry
officials in Albuquerque, New Mexico. At that meeting, wheat industry
officials decided to form a partnership with Monsanto and push for the
introduction of genetically engineered wheat.

WHAT IS NEXT?

Late last year, Monsanto applied for approval to grow and sell
genetically engineered wheat in both the United States and Canada. If
approved, the first commercial crops of genetically engineered wheat may
be planted as soon as 2004.

Opposition in Canada to genetically engineered wheat has been more
organized than in the United States. Posted below are five articles that
do an excellent job of explaining in detail the growing battle in
Canada.

To support the global opposition to genetically engineered wheat, The
Campaign to Label Genetically Engineered Foods has started the Save
Organic Wheat! coalition. We are busy working behind-the-scenes to
create the Save Organic Wheat! web site:
http://www.saveorganicwheat.org

The Save Organic Wheat! web site will be one of the most advanced
activist uses of the Internet ever developed. It will support a global
coalition of organizations, businesses, farmers and consumers opposing
the introduction of genetically engineered wheat. Initially the web site
will only support English language, but as finances allow, we hope to
expand it into support for multiple languages.

The programming of the Save Organic Wheat! web site is very complex and
taking more time and costing more money than we initially anticipated.
However, it will be fully operational in May and geared for action. We
expect the U.S. and Canadian wheat industries to think twice before
moving forward with their support for genetically engineered wheat as
the opposition grows in the coming months.

HELP SUPPORT THE SAVE ORGANIC WHEAT COALITION!

As you will read in the first article below, the future of organic wheat
is under attack from the introduction of genetically engineered wheat.
It is essential that we fight back to protect the integrity and purity
of organic wheat.

If you would like to contribute to our efforts in this important battle,
you can make a contribution at:
http://www.saveorganicwheat.org/donation.htm

WE SEE THIS ONE COMING...

When the introduction of genetically engineered corn and soybeans took
place in 1996, hardly anyone was paying attention. As a result, we now
find that a great deal of the organic corn growing in the United States
has been contaminated by cross pollination from genetically engineered
corn.

The question we need to ask ourselves is this: Are we going to allow the
same thing to happen to organic wheat?

The combined forces of the natural products industry, the organic
industry, the environmental movement, family farmers and concerned
citizens will be able to stop the introduction of genetically engineered
wheat -- but only with an organized effort.

The Campaign to Label Genetically Engineered Foods pledges to do
everything within our power to oppose the introduction of genetically
engineered wheat. But we can't do it alone. We need your active support.

Please read the articles below to get a better understanding of the
issues involved in the battle over genetically engineered wheat.

***********************************************************

Protesters fear consequences of GM wheat trials

Thursday April 10, 2003
By Ed White
Winnipeg bureau

MORDEN, Man. - After their demonstration, the protesters here tried to
relax, breaking into small groups to chat, to somersault on the grassy
field and to play hacky-sack.

A folk singer sang and pro-organic protesters munched away on free
organic treats, but the relaxed mood was strained by a cold northeast
wind. It chilled the demonstrators, who had come from Winnipeg to
condemn Agriculture Canada's participation in open-air testing of
genetically modified wheat.

It was the kind of wind they feared could spread genetically modified
pollen into organic fields.

"Pollen can spread extremely far," said Karine Grotte, a Winnipegger,
who played hacky-sack with friends in front of the Agriculture Canada
research centre in Morden.

"I'm very scared of genetic engineering. I don't think we have the
knowledge to mess around with these kinds of things at all and I'm
afraid of what's going to happen when we release this into the
environment."

Some, such as La Broquerie, Man., organic farmer Gerry Dube, see the
open-air trials as a threat to their livelihood.

The wind may blow wheat pollen out of the Agriculture Canada plots and
into conventional wheat. If GM genes get into his wheat, he would lose
his organic certification, he said.

Dube condemned Agriculture Canada for spending public money on
developing a product for Monsanto.

"It has not been proven that this will be beneficial to anybody except
the big companies that supply the product."

Janine Gibson, an inspector with Canadian Organic Growers, said this
protest, which she helped organize, was meant to spread the word to the
public that Agriculture Canada is testing genetically modified wheat in
open fields.

"Our members really do not want their wheat contaminated with
genetically engineered DNA," said Gibson.

Winnipeg folk singer Maria Mango said open-air trials could release GM
wheat DNA across the Prairies, and that would take away her right to
obtain organic wheat in stores.

"I believe in good food and freedom, and that food is key to freedom,"
said Mango.

Agriculture Canada has been working with Monsanto to develop varieties
of prairie wheat that would be resistant to glyphosate. No varieties of
GM wheat have been approved for farm production.

Open-air testing of GM wheat has not been carried out secretly. Last
year, Monsanto took reporters on a tour of its open-air test plots in
Western Canada.

But Gibson said many people believe GM wheat is still in the laboratory.

Scientists and developers argue that wheat pollen does not spread
widely, and large buffer zones around crop plots will virtually
eliminate the widespread mixing of GM wheat DNA into surrounding fields.

But Gibson said organic growers and eaters aren't willing to trust the
crop developers.

"They said the same thing about canola," said Gibson.

"Why should we believe them now when it didn't prove true then?"

***************************************************************

Big grain coalition opposes GM wheat

Thursday April 10, 2003
By Barry Wilson
Ottawa bureau

The federal grain variety registration process must be changed to test
economic and market factors before genetically modified wheat is
approved, a powerful coalition of grain producers, millers, marketers
and farm groups told Ottawa last week.

The change must be made within the next year, politicians were told
through March 31 letters to agriculture minister Lyle Vanclief and
during April 3 appearances on Parliament Hill by Canadian Wheat Board
and miller representatives.

Wheat board chair Ken Ritter told MPs on the House of Commons
agriculture committee that with a Monsanto application for a GM wheat
registration in the system, there is no time to lose.

"We could be faced with a situation where Roundup Ready wheat is
approved for unconfined release and variety registration in the spring
of 2004," he said. "That is one year away and one year is a very short
time. The urgency of this issue cannot be overstated."

The board, with the support of a variety of farm and grain groups,
called for the addition of a cost-benefit analysis to the scientific
basis now used to decide if new varieties can be registered. The board
says 82 percent of countries that buy red spring wheat have indicated a
reluctance or refusal to buy Canadian wheat if GM varieties are
approved.

Gordon Harrison, president of the Canadian National Millers Association,
said millers and bakers support the proposal. Domestically and
internationally, there is consumer resistance and Canada does not have a
grain handling system capable of guaranteeing segregation.

"The experience of (millers) over the past three years suggests that
there is no demand for genetically modified milling wheat among this
industry's customers," he said in a letter to Vanclief.

Harrison told the committee that millers and bakers believe that all new
varieties being registered, GM or conventional, should have a market
impact test.

"We propose that in order to be licensed for unconfined release and
production, a new variety must provide a net benefit to the entire value
chain," said the miller lobbyist.

The federal government has resisted such a move, insisting that all
decisions on food registration be science-based.

At the April 3 agriculture committee meeting, that government position
and the scientific basis received strong support from the lobby group
Grain Growers of Canada, representing some barley, wheat, soy and canola
associations across the country.

Introduction of political or economic considerations into variety or
food approval decisions would undermine Canada's fight against
protectionist "consumer preference" rules promoted by such importers as
the European Union, said GGC and Ontario Corn Producers' Association Don
McCabe.

"The rigour of the Canadian system ensures that all new food products
are tested and determined for consumption regardless of how they are
produced," he said in a presentation to the Commons committee.

Canada's trade stance is to fight countries that try to restrict trade
for "non-scientific reasons .... Passing our own non-scientific
legislation or regulations would undermine these efforts."

As McCabe spoke, there was a symbol of the complexity of this issue
visible for MPs to see.

The Ontario Wheat Board, which has ended its marketing monopoly and is a
member of the grain growers lobby, nonetheless signed the letter calling
for a market acceptance assessment sent by the Canadian Wheat Board to
the government.

***************************************************************

Lobby wants science, not consumers to decide

Thursday April 10, 2003
By Barry Wilson
Ottawa bureau

A national lobby group for grain and oilseeds farmers is warning the
federal government against using a market acceptance test or
cost-benefit analysis before genetically modified wheat can be approved
for the Canadian market.

Grain Growers of Canada warned the House of Commons agriculture
committee April 3 that any move away from a science-based criterion for
new plant variety approvals could drive biotechnology investment away
from Canada and deprive farmers of the best in variety development.

"Governments must be careful not to take actions today that restrict
farmers' access to these advances," Grain Growers vice-president Don
Kenny told MPs.

Director Don McCabe said any government decision on the approval system
for GM wheat will have to apply to all other varieties as well.

"This fact cannot be forgotten when this issue is discussed," he said.
"GGC members are extremely concerned with the direction proposed by
those calling for changes to Canada's regulatory system."

The grain growers' lobby was taking a stand against a powerful coalition
of growers, marketers and customers that is calling on Ottawa to keep GM
wheat off the market until it is more widely accepted.

The Canadian Wheat Board, bakers and millers and many farm groups have
joined the call for a cost-benefit analysis on GM wheat, arguing its
unrestricted introduction could drive customers away and close markets
for Canadian wheat.

The Ontario Wheat Board, although a Grain Growers' member, supports the
CWB call for an economic analysis, in addition to science-based
acceptance, before a variety can be approved.

The grain growers' lobby, representing Ontario corn producers, Canadian
canola growers, Western Canadian Wheat Growers Association and western
barley growers, acknowledged there are legitimate industry concerns that
GM wheat could damage markets.

However, rather than a regulatory change toward politics and economics
and away from science, they suggested an "advanced stakeholder review
process" that would allow the variety developer, farmers, consumers,
governments, processors and others with a stake in the debate to decide
how a variety that meets the traditional regulatory tests should be
introduced and marketed.

"These concerns should be dealt with on a voluntary basis by industry
and not through government regulations or legislation," said McCabe.

The group suggested developers of the varieties, including Monsanto and
GM wheat, would be willing to sign an agreement that the variety would
not be marketed until a committee evaluation had been done and a market
impact assessment completed.

Critics suggested this voluntary proposal leaves wary customers with
nothing more than a promise that industry will agree not to market an
unpopular product. The system must offer more guarantees that Canada's
wheat supply is guaranteed free of genetically modified varieties, they
said.

Gordon Harrison, president of the Canadian National Millers'
Association, said his members and the Baking Association of Canada want
a stronger guarantee than an industry promise that GM wheat or other
varieties with market-disrupting potential will not be introduced.

He said many customers of millers demand a written guarantee there is no
GM material. The existing grain handling system cannot guarantee
segregation.

And developers of new varieties that have been approved through the
traditional variety approval process will want a return on their
investment.

He said the protection against unwanted marketing of GM varieties must
be guaranteed by regulation and not left up to the industry.

***************************************************************

Market 'risk' once part of process

Thursday April 10, 2003
By Barry Wilson
Ottawa bureau

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency quietly changed the terms of
reference for its advisory committee on grain variety registration last
year when it discovered that for more than a decade, the committee could
include market impact in its deliberations.

The demand for a market impact test is at the heart of a campaign by the
Canadian Wheat Board, millers, bakers and some farm groups to delay
registration of genetically modified wheat until buyers will accept it.

So far, Ottawa has resisted the call for a cost-benefit analysis as part
of the registration process, insisting that the science-based process
cannot be politicized.

But as early as 1990, the wheat, rye and triticale subcommittee of the
Prairie Registration Recommending Committee for Grain included in its
operating procedures a "definition of merit" clause allowing its members
to look beyond agronomics, quality and disease resistance when
considering new varieties.

"Candidates that introduce production or marketing risks for their own
or for other wheat classes may be rejected regardless of merit in other
traits," said the operating procedures manual.

CFIA officials found out about it in late March 2001 and vice-president
Peter Brackenridge quickly summed up the impact for then-president Ron
Doering.

"If the members of this subcommittee, which includes representation from
farmers, agronomists, breeders, pathologists, seed companies and grain
quality experts, strongly believe that a (Roundup-resistant) wheat could
cause marketing risks for other traditional wheat, they could vote to
not support it for registration," he wrote in a memo acquired under
access-to-information laws by Canadian Health Coalition researcher Brad
Duplisea.

The CFIA quickly moved to tell the committee it should not use the power
to let market issues influence recommendations. And last year, it had
the operating procedures changed to remove the clause.

"Once we brought it up and the CFIA took note of it, they came back and
said they didn't think it appropriate that it be there, or that it be
used," Robert Graf, a wheat breeder at the Agriculture Canada research
centre in Lethbridge and a former chair of the wheat, rye and triticale
subcommittee said in an April 7 interview.

"So there is confusion about this issue and it really has to be cleared
up."

Graf said the agency was within its rights to change the terms of
reference.

"We can only recommend," said Graf. "They don't have to listen to the
recommendation. Most of the time they would accept it but they don't
have to."

He said he did not believe the market impact test has been used to
reject a variety.

Before the CFIA acted, the Canadian Wheat Board thought it had found a
way to keep GM wheat out of the system, despite government insistence it
was not possible under the rules.

"We have initiated discussions with CFIA, (Agriculture Canada) and
others on this topic and it seemed to me everyone was operating on the
understanding that market impact is not part of the process today and
that significant regulatory and/or legislative change would be necessary
to introduce it," Graf said in an e-mail message to a CFIA official
April 11, 2001 asking for more details.

Now, after the CFIA removed that option, the CWB is back before
government officials and committees asking that a similar option be put
back into the registration system.

***************************************************************

GM wheat dividing Canadian industry

Thursday April 3, 2003
By Michael Raine
Saskatoon newsroom

A spokesperson for a group that represents pesticide and biotechnology
companies, said organic farmers' rights shouldn't interfere with the
rights of other growers who might want to use genetically modified wheat
when it becomes commercially available.

"If Europe has zero tolerance for GM content, then Canadian farmers
don't sell to Europe," said Denise Dewar of CropLife Canada in a phone
interview following a Canadian Wheat Board meeting on herbicide tolerant
crops.

"It is unreasonable to set a zero tolerance. It's an unfair trade
barrier that the government of Canada has committed to fight with the
United States through the (World Trade Organization)."

She said until the dispute over tolerance levels is settled, Canadian
organic farmers can sell to other markets.

Farmers attending the Saskatoon meeting heard plant researchers,
economists, biotech and agricultural chemical company officials, and
farmers say that once a GM cereal crop is released for commercial
production, a bit of it would spread on every farm in Western Canada.

Degree of spread and the effects that would have on Canadian wheat
markets are questions pondered by many industry groups.

"An (identity preserved) grain handling system will be necessary," said
Dale Adolphe, executive director of the Canadian Seed Growers
Association.

"Control of (crop) volunteers will be necessary. Growers' agreements
will help. In the end, there is no such thing as zero tolerance. There
will be pollen transfers, mechanical mixing on the farm, at the seed
plant, in the grain handling system. What we have to establish is a
level of tolerance if it (GM wheat) is introduced."

Organic producers at the event said it would be unfair to them to
introduce a crop that could eliminate some of their markets.

Ray Bauml, an organic grain producer from Marysburg, Sask., said his
grain earns a 50 to 300 percent price premium because it is GM free and
organic. His wheat couldn't be sold into the large European market if it
contained GM genes, he said.

"We know from experience already that if even one kernel of GM seed is
found in that container of grain, when that grain is tested at the dock
in Europe, it sits on the dock until we pay to have it dumped into the
ocean."

Curtis Remple, commercial development manager with Monsanto Canada,
repeated his company's assurances that it is committed to protecting the
Canadian grain industry.

"Before we release a commercial crop like Roundup Ready wheat there have
to be thresholds for Canadian Wheat Board customer acceptance. We aren't
going to intentionally ruin the Canadian wheat industry. That wouldn't
be a good business move for Monsanto," he said.

Richard Gray, head of the University of Saskatchewan's agricultural
economics department, said Canada's millers and bakers won't accept GM
wheat, which will hurt "technology adopters and non-adopters alike.

"They see the new food labelling requirements on the horizon and they
don't want to have to indicate that their bread contains GM products, no
matter how small the amount," Gray said.

"The organic industry isn't alone on this."

***************************************************************

If you would like to comment on this News Update, you can do so at the
forum section of our web site at: http://www.thecampaign.org/forums

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