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Kraft Backs GE Wheat

US consumers will not shun biotech wheat - Kraft
18/12/2003

WASHINGTON - U.S. consumers will most likely accept genetically engineered wheat in their bread, breakfast cereal and pasta as biotech crops are already widely used in many food products, a Kraft Foods Inc. official said this week.

Despite very public anti-biotech campaigns from some consumer advocates and environmental groups, Americans have not shunned food products that contain genetically engineered corn (maize) and soybeans. "My personal guess is that (biotech wheat) probably won't have a significant impact on consumers based on how they react to corn and soybeans," said Ron Triani, senior director of scientific relations for Kraft North America, at a biotech policy forum.

Biotech company Monsanto Co. has said it could receive U.S. approval to commercialize the world's first biotech wheat variety within the next few years. While soybeans, corn and a few other crops have been genetically modified for years, wheat would be the first true biotech food grain. Corn and soybeans primarily are used in livestock rations, but are also used in food.

"I think consumers are going to look at (biotech) wheat differently," said Gregory Jaffe, biotech director for the Center for Science in the Public Interest.
Even if Monsanto wins approval, company officials have insisted it would not market biotech wheat until growers and consumers were comfortable with it. "We are going to introduce this product when the market is ready," said Jerry Steiner, Monsanto's vice president.

Kraft said it will take a "hard look" at the safety of biotech wheat and its acceptance among consumers before allowing the crops into its products. Most panel members agreed that biotech crops should be required to receive food safety approval by the Food and Drug Administration. Currently, the FDA review is voluntary. "FDA authority to say biotech products are safe would help consumer confidence here and abroad," Jaffe said.

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