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Another Setback for Monsanto on GE Wheat

http://www.canoe.ca/NationalTicker/CANOE-wire.Genetic-Wheat.html
CNEWS CANADA
January 9, 2004

AgCan ends testing of GE wheat developed with Monsanto

OTTAWA (CP) -- Agriculture Canada is abandoning a long-running project
involving genetically engineered wheat it developed in partnership with
biotech giant Monsanto, amid doubts about how well the product would
sell.

Regulatory authorities continue to assess the risks and benefits of
Roundup Ready wheat, but the AgCan decision suggests that scientific
hopes for the first strain of biotech wheat may be dimming.

Jim Bole of Agriculture Canada said the department will make no further
investment in the crop it has developed with Monsanto since 1997.

"There's still some testing going on that does involve our scientists .
. . but Ag Canada is not contributing more funds toward it," Bole said
in an interview from Winnipeg.

"We're no longer developing Roundup Ready wheat with Monsanto." Asked
if the department's decision reflects concern about whether Canada's
wheat customers would accept the new strain of wheat, Bole replied:
"Yes, I think it does."'

The AgCan-Monsanto contract is confidential, but Bole said the company
invested $1.3 million while the department invested $500,000.

The department also gave Monsanto access to state-of-the-art genetic
material developed over many years of research.

Monsanto spokeswoman Trish Jordan played down the significance of the
AgCan decision to end the collaboration, saying its purpose had been
achieved and there was no reason to extend it.

Jordan said Monsanto still hopes to commercialize Roundup Ready wheat,
but will not do anything to jeopardize Canada's wheat markets.

"Biotechnology has a lot to offer to wheat production in Western Canada
and we're trying to find ways to make this doable and come up with
solutions rather than just stopping all work altogether.

"Certainly as a company we're not going to do anything to jeopardize
the ability of Western Canadian farmers to market their grain."

Roundup Ready wheat is resistant to Roundup, a popular herbicide. It
allows farmers to easily kill weeds without killing their wheat plants.

But many countries have been reluctant to embrace genetically
engineered foods, and there are concerns that the new wheat plants could
turn into superweeds.

The Canadian Wheat Board has said most of its customers don't want the
new strain and last year it asked Monsanto to withdraw its application
for regulatory approval.

Bole said the Agriculture Canada scientists had learned a lot from
working with Monsanto, and the collaboration seemed promising at the
outset in 1997.

Currently, however, "Agriculture Canada would probably no longer
anticipate a return on their investment."

He said the biotech revolution in agriculture has not lived up to
expectations.

"I'm afraid it was oversold. We expected to be growing crops at this
time with many traits that would be of great value to consumers and
producers.

"But the regulatory area has been much more stringent than anyone
anticipated and market acceptance hasn't been as positive as we would
have anticipated."



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