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Wheat Industry Asks USDA to Shun Biotech Critics
(April 29, 2003)
According to Reuters News Service, U.S. wheat industry leaders last week asked the U.S. Department of Agriculture to press ahead with its review of Monsanto Co.'s biotech wheat (MON.N) and deny a bid by opponents of genetically modified wheat to block regulatory approval. Led by the National Association of Wheat Growers (NAWG), the industry delivered a letter April 25th to Agriculture Secretary Ann Veneman asking that the USDA adhere to a strictly scientific review of Monsanto's application for "Roundup Ready" wheat. In March, a consortium of U.S. agricultural and environmental groups, opposed to the genetically modified wheat, filed a legal petition seeking a federal moratorium on the wheat.

The consortium of groups said there was widespread foreign opposition to buying biotech wheat as well as various environmental concerns, and demanded that the USDA withhold approval of Monsanto's Roundup Ready wheat variety until the government assesses the complete environmental and economic impacts of the product. But in the industry letter Friday, U.S. Wheat Associates, an industry export marketing agency, and the Wheat Export Trade Education Committee (WETEC), joined with NAWG to assert that the biotech opponents did not represent the interests of the wheat industry. Moreover, they said, it is not USDA's role to examine issues outside of scientific concerns.

Monsanto's efforts to seek regulatory approval to launch what would be the world's first biotech wheat have generated controversy around the world. Studies by U.S. wheat export experts have shown that many large foreign buyers of U.S. wheat will shun U.S. wheat supplies if Roundup Ready wheat is introduced to the marketplace.

Some farmers have said they fear they will lose export markets if the biotech wheat is commercialized, but believe the product, and future biotech offerings, could help them grow wheat more profitably.

To learn more about the health and environment concerns about genetically modified organisms visit Beyond Pesticides Genetic Engineering program page.