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Lobbyists Pushing GM Wheat Again, But Non-GM is the Future

1. Economy playing a factor in genetically-modified wheat
2. Growers Can Show Support for Biotech Wheat, Alfalfa

NOTE: This is a classic case of GM being punted as the solution to all problems regardless!

The hopes of wheat growers are bring projected onto GM in terms of improved yield and drought resistance (see item 1), but not only is there not a single commercialised GM crop for drought resistance or increased yield potential, non-GM breeeding looks like it will deliver soonest in any case.

And you don't have to believe us about that, that's according to Monsanto. Consider what the company told Farmers Weekly:

"Biotechnology rather than genetic modification is the key to improving wheat varieties, says Monsanto. Although GM techniques may develop some traits, most will stem from conventional breeding backed by sophisticated biotech tools." (Wheat future is in bio-tech not GM - breeder, Farmer's Weekly, 25 February 2000)

Because of this even when Monsanto was involved with GM wheat, it was never regarded as cutting edge:

"Biotech to aid conventional wheat breeding is already attracting 10 to 20 times more effort than the [GM] genetic transformation of the crop, says US-based Tom Crosbie, Monsanto's global head of plant breeding." (Wheat future is in bio-tech not GM - breeder, Farmer's Weekly, 25 February 2000)

And this is what Jeff Cox, general manager for Monsanto Northern Europe, told Farmers Weekly a couple of years later:

"'[GM] Genetic transformation is just one particular wrench in the biotechnology toolbox. We have lots of other [non-GM] tools to accelerate the development of new wheat varieties,' he says."

"'Genetic transformation can only be used to introduce one segment of novel genetic material to a variety at a time, but biotech tools can be used to enhance a host of existing traits. It's a numbers game and ultimately non-transformation biotech offers the greatest potential.'"

"Our thinking needs to be focussed downstream at our markets, innovatively and laterally...[to] give us a worthwhile competitive advantage... The possibilities are as endless as they are exciting and they are achievable with existing technologies. Within the wheat plant we have a vast reservoir of genes. We also have the advanced analytical equipment necessary to pinpoint the molecular characteristics we need. And the [non-GM] marker-assisted systems to reliably build these characteristics into high output varieties through conventional plant breeding." (Farmers Weekly, 30 August 2002)

Yet with even Monsanto admitting the future is non-GM for wheat, the National Association of Wheat Growers has, as this article notes, launched a campaign to determine how well farmers will accept GM wheat.

Given the kind of market rejection they are likely to face if they adopt GM wheat, this is complete insanity.

But wheat growers, frustrated at seeing the growing acreage going to corn and soyabeans, are being misled by pro-GM lobbyists into believing this reflects the availability of GM varieties for those 2 crops.

In reality, the stampede into those 2 crops has been driven by the damaging "biofuels" boom and the popularity of soy as a commodity crop for food processing and animal feed.

But that's not what lobbyists like the front group Growers for Biotechnology are saying - see item 2.

The title of one of the Growers for Biotechnology commentaries says it all, "Hoping that Santa brings biotech toys"!!!!
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1. Economy playing a factor in genetically-modified wheat
The Hays Daily News, 14 Jan 2009

mcorn AT
Economics ultimately will dictate how Kansas farmers adopt genetically modified wheat, a Sharon Springs farmer contends.

The National Association of Wheat Growers recently has launched a campaign to determine how well farmers will accept biotechnology in wheat.

In the past, there's been little interest shown in genetic modification of wheat because most farmers simply hold over wheat for seed for future crops. Buying commercially produced wheat seed is an expensive proposition, especially when there's been little incentive, such as higher yields.

That's the ultimate goal for the national wheat group, hoping to entice biotechnology companies to dedicate money and resources to developing wheat seed that will show increases in yield.

For David Schemm, vice president of trade group Kansas Wheat, one of the benefits might be in developing a wheat variety that is more drought tolerant -- making it adaptable to his area of the state where rainfall is significantly less than in other areas.

Schemm even went so far as to suggest a reduction in the number of land planted to wheat might be tied to a lack of advances in the crop, at least as far as compared to either corn or soybeans.

Generally, he thinks some farmers will adopt genetically modified wheat while others will want nothing to do with it.

That's generally the case with GMO corn and soybeans.

Schemm said he would be willing to adopt the new technology, especially if it can incorporate drought-tolerance.
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2. Growers Can Show Support for Biotech Wheat, Alfalfa
News from Growers for Biotechnology, January 13 2009

Growers who support biotechnology have two immediate opportunities to let their voices be heard concerning biotech wheat and biotech alfalfa.

The National Association of Wheat Growers (NAWG) has developed a statement that could become the organization's official position on biotech wheat.  The draft statement expresses strong support for developing biotech traits in wheat. NAWG is now conducting a survey to gauge members' support for the statement. (See article below for details on how to respond.)

The new NAWG statement reflects the reality that many in the wheat industry, from growers to millers to bakers, have begun to realize that other crops are taking over acreage once devoted to wheat.  This is because crops improved through biotechnology are more efficient and more profitable to produce. Biotech traits could greatly improve the efficiency of wheat production and once again make wheat competitive.

On the alfalfa front, growers have an opportunity to show their support to the U.S. Department of Agriculture as it responds to the lawsuit from activists who have sought to derail Roundup Ready alfalfa. It is very important that USDA receive letters of support from growers, dairymen and others who know or want to experience the benefits this product can bring.  These benefits include:

Dependable, cost-effective weed control; Consistent, high-quality, weed-free hay; Improved production efficiency; And more profit from each ton of hay.

USDA, which has been developing an environmental impact statement as required by the courts, is expected to open a comment period early this year. Opponents can be expected to mobilize their efforts against the technology, so those of us who want or support the technology must become engaged. 

Here's how to help:  Go to this website ( ) and pre-register for the comment period. As soon as the comment period begins, you will receive information on how to make sure your opinion is heard.

If you have questions about Roundup Ready alfalfa, a new white paper developed by forage experts at the University of California and the University of Wisconsin probably will answer them. The paper by Dr. Dan Putnam and Dr. Dan Undersander is posted on our website.