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Second Round of Fighting Begins Over Genetically Modified Wheat

Picture a boxing ring. In one corner is Monsanto, a corporate giant, the biggest in the agricultural biotechnology sector. In the other corner are farmers, organic growers, environmentalists, activists and consumers. Until this week, it wasn't even a sparring match. According to Monsanto; it was just a case of the opposition engaging in shadow-boxing. But suddenly, not only is there a boxing match, it looks like the stage has been set for the gloves to come off.

Round one took place in the late 1990s-early 2000s. The issue? Genetically engineered (GE) wheat. While Monsanto had invested almost $5 million in developing Roundup-ready wheat, "Roundup-ready wheat does not exist," said Monsanto Canada spokeswoman, Trish Jordan by telephone yesterday.

Yes, Monsanto was working on the wheat product. Yes, Monsanto had applied to North American governments for permission to commercialize the GE wheat. Yes, Monsanto decided to pull out of the Roundup-ready spring wheat because of a "lack of industry alignment."

What Jordan omitted to say, however, was that not only was Monsanto facing widespread opposition to the wheat from farmers and consumers, AgCanada pulled its funding of the GE wheat in 2004, further influencing Monsanto's decision to drop the project.