Stark GM grain warning

By FWi staff

FORCING genetically modified wheat onto the market could severely disrupt world trade and cost exporting countries millions of dollars.

American analyst Alan Tracy, president of US Wheat Associates, delivered this stark warning to delegates at the recent International Grains Conference in London.

In what many saw as a marked turnaround in US thinking, he said the industry had to win consumers confidence before marketing GM grain.

“Wheat is perhaps the most political of all grains,” said Mr Tracy. Referring to widespread public resistance to GM maize, notably in Europe, he added: “The recent corn fiasco is just a hint of what we might expect.”

Attention was focused on Monsantos Round-up Ready wheat, due in 2003-05, said Mr Tracy. But, importantly, human health and the environment were also potential beneficiaries of the science.

However, while the industry should not block progress, it could not ignore its customers, he warned. “I, for one, am not ready to cede market share through our own actions.”

Agreed international tolerances of GM wheat in conventional stocks were needed, as were grain-handling systems capable of meeting them, he said.

Greg Arason, president of the Canadian Wheat Board, agreed. “There remains a great deal of controversy around the issue of biotechnology. The customer is always right, even though scientists may not think so.”

There was no room for varieties without a ready market. “In Canada, we are well aware that if industry and the government do not handle this situation correctly, our farmers stand to lose hundreds of millions of $s,” said Mr Arason.


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