Organic Consumers Association

South Korea Will Reject GE US Wheat

Farm News from Cropchoice
An alternative news service for American farmers

Korean miller: 'Consumer is king'

by Robert Schubert
CropChoice editor

(Friday, May 2, 2003 -- CropChoice news) -- WASHINGTON -- "We don't want
GMO wheat," said Hi Sang Lee, chairman of the Korea Flour Mills Industrial
Association (KOFMIA), at a media breakfast that was part of the
Association's U.S. goodwill mission.

The intention to boycott genetically modified (GMO) wheat that the
Association, which represents nearly 100 percent of Korea's flour millers,
announced three years ago still stands, said Dong Jin Chung, senior vice
chairman of KOFMIA and president of the Daehan Flour Mills, Co.: "We
don't openly talk about about GM wheat because then the NGOs
(non-governmental organizations) will start protesting, so we talk

When and if the hard red spring wheat that Monsanto engineered to resist
the glyphosate herbicide (Roundup) arrives, determing exactly what
consumers would do is difficult. "I think consumers will boycott the
whole wheat industry," Chung said. "Millers have no choice, consumers do.
If the consumers don't accept GM wheat, then the millers won't. The
consumer is king."

KOFMIA wouldn't deliberately shift to other wheat suppliers, such as
Australia, Canada or the former republics of the former Soviet Union, but
the cost of attempting to segregate conventional and biotech wheat could
make U.S. wheat too expensive for the Korean market, said Lee, chairman of

Koreans aren't wedded to wheat. Rice remains their staple; they eat a bit
more than 180 pounds of rice per capita annually compared to about 70
pounds of wheat flour.

Even if the Korean government were to establish tolerance levels for
Monsanto's Roundup Ready wheat, that doesn't mean processors and consumers
would accept it. Take the case of corn. The Korean Food and Drug
Administration approved (with labels) corn oil and syrup made from biotech
varieties. Nonetheless, importers have gradually begun to shift to
non-engineered corn from China and Brazil, said Il Woong Kim, president of
the Shinhan Flour Mills, Co.

After the breakfast, Lee noted that, of the 20 farmers who met with the
KOFMIA delegation in Great Falls, Mont. on Tuesday, all but one expressed
opposition to transgenic wheat.

Facts from U.S. Wheat Associates:

"During CY02, Korea imported a total of 2.37 MMT of milling wheat on
arrival basis with U.S. wheat accounting for 1.26 MMT, or 53.2%. A year
ago arrivals totaled 2.41 MMT and U.S. wheat accounted for 1.31 MMT or
54.5%. Australian wheat arrivals totaled 967,420 MT, or 40.8%, and
Canadian wheat arrivals totaled 142,871 MT, or 6.0%. Wheat imports over
the next few years will likely be around 2.4 to 2.5 MMT, with the U.S.
market share expected to exceed 60%.

"In the meantime, feed wheat imports totaled 1.92 MMT during CY02 on a
purchase basis, an increase of 39% from the previous year. There were no
feed wheat imports from the U.S. It is hard to forecast feed wheat import
quantity and origins into Korea as they depend on the availability of
other types of feed-stuffs and price."--end--

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