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Biotech wheat could slam U.S. wheat prices -report
Wed Jan 27, 2010 3:50pm EST
* European Union and Japan opposed to biotech wheat
* Lost exports could send U.S. spring wheat down 40 pct
By Carey Gillam
CHICAGO, Jan 27 (Reuters) – U.S. wheat prices could fall by 40 percent
or more if industry efforts to develop a biotech wheat succeed,
according to an industry report issued on Wednesday.
The report, issued by the Western Organization of Resource Councils, a
farmer and rancher group, cited persistent opposition to genetically
modified wheat in Europe, Japan, and other Asian countries. It said
buyers in those countries probably would shift purchases away from the
United States, if a biotech wheat was commercialized here.
The price of U.S. hard red spring wheat would fall 40 percent, the
report predicted, and the price of durum wheat would drop 57 percent.
“Introduction of genetically modified wheat in the United States is a
risky proposition,” said the report’s author, industry consultant Neal
Blue, a former research economist at Ohio State University.
Any biotech wheat is still years from commercialization as companies
like Monsanto Co, Dow AgroSciences, and others research various
improvements to the crop through genetic modifications and other means.
Monsanto, a leading developer of corn and soybeans genetically altered
to tolerate herbicide treatments and resist pests, backed off a plan
to commercialize herbicide-tolerant “Roundup Ready” spring wheat in
2004. At the time, the industry feared the new wheat would hurt U.S.
Monsanto said last year it was starting a new biotech effort focused
on making wheat plants more drought tolerant, more efficient in the
use of nitrogen and higher yielding.
U.S. wheat acres have been declining in recent years as farmers shift
to more profitable crops. Several wheat industry groups have asked
Monsanto and rival seed companies to develop better wheat seed.
Currently no biotech wheat is grown on a commercial scale anywhere in
the world due to opposition from consumers and food industry players.
The report issued Wednesday said consumers in the European Union and
Japan remained opposed to biotech wheat, and labeling and traceability
requirements would make it difficult to sell genetically modified
wheat there, the report said.
“Some in the wheat industry seem intent on pushing genetically
modified wheat,” said Todd Leake, a wheat farmer and member of the
Dakota Resource Council. “This report strongly suggests they should be
very cautious and listen to the customer.”
U.S. Wheat Associates President Alan Tracy said the wheat industry was
working to improve international acceptance of biotech wheat in
advance of commercial introductions, which are still several years away.
“The U.S. wheat industry has pledged to our customers that we will
continue to supply them with the products they need,” said Tracy.
“U.S. wheat growers generally recognize that, if our industry is to
prosper, we need to take advantage of technological changes, and that
to feed 9 billion people by mid-century, the farmers of the world need
to do so as well.”
(Reporting by Carey Gillam; Editing by David Gregorio and Walter
Lucy Sharratt, Coordinator
Canadian Biotechnology Action Network (CBAN)
Collaborative Campaigning for Food Sovereignty and Environmental Justice
431 Gilmour Street, Second Floor
Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, K2P 0R5
Phone: 613 241 2267 ext.6
Fax: 613 241 2506