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Japanese Adamantly Oppose GE Wheat

Japan adamantly against biotech wheat - US report
By Carey Gillam

KANSAS CITY, Mo., April 23 (Reuters) - Japanese wheat industry players
remain adamant in their stance against genetically modified (GM) wheat, a
team of U.S. wheat industry leaders learned on a trip to Japan last week.
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A report on the April 15-20 series of meetings with the Japanese wheat
industry was issued by U.S. Wheat Associates on Monday, and stated that
``the Japanese industry leaders have indicated that they will purchase
non-GM wheat from U.S. competitors if the U.S. cannot ensure that Japan will
receive 'GM-free' wheat.''

``The Food Agency (FA), which is the sole government wheat buyer, emphasized
that even if GMO food safety is certified by Japanese health officials, the
FA could not purchase biotechnology-derived wheat due to consumer
concerns,'' the report said.

A team of five U.S. wheat leaders traveled to Tokyo to discuss the
ramifications of plans by biotech agricultural giant Monsanto Co. (NYSE:MON
- news) to release a genetically modified spring wheat sometime between 2003
and 2005. St. Louis, Missouri-based Monsanto has said it will release the
variety, which would be the world's first genetically modified wheat, in the
U.S. when it receives government approvals in the U.S. and in Japan.

But U.S. wheat producers are worried that they might lose market share when
the GM spring wheat is introduced because Japan, the European Union, and
other key markets, have expressed reluctance to buy GM wheat due to consumer
concerns about the safety and environmental impact of genetic modification
of food grains.

Last week's meetings in Japan, which included discussions with flour millers
as well as government officials, underscored the concerns.

``Officials over there believe there is going to be a future for
biotechnology, but a number of events have happened there that have made the
consumer less willing to accept biotechnology,'' said Darrell Hanavan, who
chairs a joint biotechnology committee of U.S. Wheat Associates and the
National Association of Wheat Growers. ``They want us to really be aware of
their concerns.''

Hanavan said despite the Japanese views on biotech wheat plans, he was
optimistic.

``The Japanese flour millers have indicated a willingness to work with the
U.S. to evaluate an IP system for GM wheat,'' Hanavan said. ``I view that
positively that they are willing to work with us. I think we just need to
keep an open dialogue with them.''

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