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Fouling our nest. Archive in ecology.

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Fouling our nest. Archive in ecology.

Posted by Walt Stoll on February 01, 2003 at 09:39:09:

Does anyone else have trouble trusting Monsanto with their
life,health, etc?

By Carey Gillam

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M., Jan 29 (Reuters) - U.S. wheat farmers were moving
to help Monsanto Co. overcome customer apprehension to the world's
first genetically modified wheat, which is moving closer to
regulatory approval both in the U.S. and abroad.

"Consumers trust farmers," said Monsanto wheat industry affairs
spokesman Michael Doane. "We've been investing in this technology...
now for probably a decade. We're entering a new part of the project
and need industry help to educate decision makers."

After spending more than a decade - and tens of millions of dollars -
in development of a genetically modified wheat that allows farmers
to more efficiently control weeds, Monsanto has hit a critical
juncture, said Doane, who was spending this week at a meeting of key
wheat industry players in Albuquerque.

Doane said the company needs farmer groups to step up global
educational efforts to overcome the fears of millers and bakers and
food companies who have seen the food industry rocked by controversy
over genetically modified crops.

And the farmers are on board. While two years ago, the wheat farmers
viewed Monsanto's GM wheat proposal with some suspicion and fear of
losing markets, this week's annual gathering found firm support for
Monsanto and eagerness to obtain the potential benefits the
technology might offer.

"Rather than sitting on the sidelines hoping that it wins
acceptance... we're trying to help out," said National Association
of Wheat Growers (NAWG) CEO Darren Coppock. "It is very much a
partnership (with Monsanto)."

As one sign of the new market outreach underway by growers, NAWG is
forming a group made up of players up and down the food chain,
including leading fast food giant McDonald's Corp., to formulate a
united front for GM wheat when it hits the market.

The group hopes to have a strategy together within the next year.
Monsanto submitted final regulatory submissions in the U.S. and
Canada in December and regulatory approval looks to be at least 18
to 24 months away. Monsanto has also applied for regulatory approval
in Japan.

Cautionary voice continued to be heard. Leading buyers of U.S. wheat,
both within the U.S., and in key export markets, have stated firmly
they will not buy GM wheat. The concern is not one of safety - the
science shows no evidence of health or environmental harm - but one
of public sentiment.

The contamination 2-1/2 years ago of taco shells, corn chips and
other products by a GM corn not approved for food use still has food
chain players skittish, even though a GM wheat would not be released
until it had full regulatory approval.

And last year's contamination of soybeans with an experimental
biotech corn aimed at treating diabetes further fueled fears about a
lack of control over biotech crops.

"Yes, we support food biotechnology and yes, we know it is grounded
in sound science," said Betsy Faga president of the North American
Millers Association. "But we have to ask the question, are our
customers ready for genetically enhanced wheat?"

Archer Daniels Midland is one company concerned about a GM wheat
introduction. While ADM accepts the safety of the technology, the
company's customers say they don't want to buy GM wheat.

"They're telling me they're going to go non-GMO," said ADM milling
executive Dave Green. "They don't want to lose even a small
percentage of customers."

The highest hurdle seen by many is winning over the key world buyers
of U.S. wheat, including many Asian countries. Research by U.S.
Wheat, the group that markets domestic wheat abroad, has found
strong opposition and the group has cautioned that commercialization
could hurt overseas sales.

That message is one growers hope to quash. Indeed, this week, wheat
growers ordered U.S. Wheat to stop talking publicly about the export
market opposition, saying such discussion only hurts the efforts to
gain acceptance.

"We've got to figure out how to overcome the problems," said Darrell
Hanavan, the head of a joint wheat industry biotech advisory
committee that works closely with Monsanto.

"We are going to see some biotech traits in wheat in the future that
are very beneficial to us," said Hanavan. "I think (Monsanto) wants
to do things right."



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