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Genetically Modified Wheat Genetically engineered wheat GM wheat GE wheat monsanto GMO Monsanto biotech
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Genetically Engineered Wheat Article

Omaha World-Herald

May 7, 2003

Wheat Farmers Not ready for Roundup

USDA should listen to markets as it weighs GMO wheat application. The trouble that "Roundup Ready" corn and soybeans created in foreign markets is rightly a significant caution flag for the adoption of Roundup Ready wheat. Genetic alteration makes the crops impervious, or nearly so, to Roundup, a popular herbicide made by Monsanto that saves farmers labor and money. Despite much hysteria, solid science has shown the GMOs, as genetically modified organisms are known, to be safe. Normally, we would say: Let the science rule. But markets don't run on science.

And wheat buyers, from the domestic food industry to an overwhelming majority of foreign countries, say they won't buy GMO wheat. Iowa State University ag economist Robert Wisner recently projected that if GMO wheat is introduced, wheat prices could drop by about one-third. Unlike soybeans and corn, which found other markets to replace those lost to GMO fears, there are many more alternative suppliers of wheat in world markets. Loss of exports might force excess wheat supplies into the domestic feed market, Wisner says.

That's a concern for the Nebraskans who grow plentiful corn and soybean crops, as well as wheat growers who would be affected by damage both to the market for their grain to and trade relationships. (Nebraska, it should be noted, grows mostly winter wheat, not the spring variety being developed as "Roundup Ready.") Another market barrier is that wheat, used primarily in foods, would face GMO labeling laws in many countries in which beans and corn, used for feed, do not. So even if their governments approve imports of GMO food ingredients, consumers and foreign food industries might still reject such crops.

That's one reason to be cautious about promises from Monsanto that it will not release Roundup Ready wheat until it has secured market acceptance. Another caution flag is profit pressure. A few weeds are beginning to show resistance to the company's immensely successful Roundup herbicide. It would make sense for Monsanto to want to cash in before much of Roundup's effectiveness is lost. Regulators at the U.S. Department of Agriculture can't afford to look just at the science on this issue. Too much is at stake - both in terms of the huge farm markets and the taxpayer-funded farm subsidies.

 
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