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Monsanto May Force U.S. Approval of GE Wheat Even if Canada Says No

http://www.forbes.com/markets/newswire/2004/03/16/rtr1301018.html

Reuters, 03.16.04
By Carey Gillam

Monsanto raises idea of U.S.-only GMO wheat release

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (Reuters) - Monsanto Co. is discussing with the U.S. wheat
industry whether it should be held to its promise not to release biotech
wheat in the United States unless it can simultaneously market it in Canada,
wheat industry officials said Tuesday.

Monsanto told top officials from wheat growers and wheat marketing
organizations over the weekend that it was facing stiff opposition to its
biotech wheat product in Canada.

In a written presentation prepared for the meeting, the company raised the
possibility of "alternative strategies" to the simultaneous U.S.-Canadian
release it has pledged to the wheat industry for more than a year.

U.S. wheat growers do not want Monsanto's biotech wheat -- a spring wheat
variety that would be the world's first genetically modified wheat --
introduced only in this country. They fear foreign buyers opposed to biotech
food products would shift their purchases to Canada, the United States' top
competitor for hard red spring wheat sales.

Monsanto spokesman Michael Doane would not discuss details of the weekend
meeting, and stressed that the company remained focused on releasing the
controversial new wheat after approvals were granted in both countries.

"Today we stay with our commitments," he said.

But wheat industry leaders confirmed Monsanto was putting on the table the
option of going ahead without Canadian approval as regulatory clearances any
time soon in Canada appeared uncertain.

"The reason people are starting to talk about this scenario is it looks like
it might run into serious opposition in Canada," said National Association
of Wheat Growers CEO Daren Coppock.

"We have not flat out told them we will not discuss alternatives, but it is
our extremely strong preference we remain on that track," he said.

U.S. Wheat Associates, which handles global marketing issues for the U.S.
wheat industry, said a U.S.-only release would give the Canadians a distinct
advantage.

"If we introduce and the Canadians do not that would make it easier for
countries to continue to insist on buying from a country that is GM-free and
it would give Canada a distinct marketing advantage," said U.S. Wheat
President Alan Tracy.

Marketers like the Canadian Wheat Board have said export buyers would reject
Canadian wheat if Ottawa grants approval to Monsanto's genetically modified
wheat.

Canadian regulators do not currently consider market impact in approving new
crops, but the federal agriculture department there is considering whether
or not to widen its view.

Monsanto's plans to introduce its biotech wheat, which is resistant to the
company's Roundup herbicide, have sparked debate across the industry. While
many farmers fear they would lose sales to buyers unwilling to take biotech
crops, they want to take advantage of, and encourage future development of,
technology that could help them reap more bountiful harvests.

The issue gained urgency after Monsanto in January told industry leaders
they must fully embrace the project and help gain market acceptance or Monsanto
may abandon research into other wheat technologies.

Copyright 2004, Reuters News Service