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Experts Warn Against GM Wheat

Making their voices heard
Opponents tell farmers about GM wheat risks

By: Marvin Baker
Editorial Senior News Editor
Posted at 12:00 pm

- Experts say many of North Dakota's export markets will dry up if
genetically modified wheat is allowed to be grown in the state. They will be
left with bins full of worthless grain that hasn't even been proven worthy
as a livestock feed.

But it's not too late for producers to voice their opinions and control
their own destiny.

Farmers and consumers have to band together to stop the implementation of GM
wheat or there will be huge repercussions across the state, members of a
panel discussion, sponsored by the Dakota Resource Council, said Saturday in
Minot.

Speaking to a small crowd of only 10 people, Scott Fry, DRC organizer, said
it's critical that everyone concerned about this issue contact their
legislators to let them know of the potential risks to North Dakota's
agricultural future.

Saturday's meeting was one of several that have been held across the state
in hopes of getting producers and consumers talking about the GM wheat issue
and taking action against it, according to Fry.

He said the Legislature is not analyzing public concerns, primarily because
a small group of people is vocal about the issue, and that needs to change.

"Talk to your neighbors and talk to your legislators," Fry said. "Call them,
catch them in the hall on the way to their office. They're not responding
because they're seeing the same faces."

Fry expressed his disappointment with the poor turnout, adding that's
precisely why the Legislature is pressing ahead with bringing GM wheat into
North Dakota. He said it's vitally important for farmers across the state to
get together and have a strong voice and put a stop to pending legislation.

Containment and tolerance are two important issues in the GM wheat debate,
according to Gail Wiley, Montpelier, a member of the panel. She said flatly
that GM wheat shouldn't be grown in North Dakota with other food crops.

Her husband Tom, also on the panel, talked of catastrophe in export markets
because members of the European Union and Japan simply will not purchase GM
wheat. "If we can't export we're going to be in dire straits," he said.

Tom Taylor, the third panelist and member of the Organic Consumers
Association in Minneapolis
, said people all over the world are concerned
about their food supply, and GM wheat products will essentially force
consumers to purchase other products made without genetically modified
organisms.

Gail Wiley, who recently spoke to the Croatian Parliament about GMOs, and
with her husband has given presentations all across Europe, Australia and
the United States, said North Dakota also stands to lose domestic markets if
GM wheat is raised in the state.

"General Mills won't accept GM wheat because they did a survey and found
that more than 10 percent of the respondents said they don't want GM wheat,"
she said. "North Dakota bakeries are now looking at other states for their
flour."

She said Dakota Brands, which makes frozen dough products in Jamestown, is
one such bakery. Wiley said that business, which employs about 500 people,
was created in part to bolster economic development in Stutsman County.

"Then we want to turn around and take away their wheat supply," she said.
"So, we're definitely cutting ourselves out of markets here."

Wiley added it's no secret that foreign buyers, especially in Europe, don't
want GM wheat. She said Italy recently stated it won't accept durum for its
pasta from any countries where GM wheat is grown.

Wiley said liability issues surrounding GM wheat could have huge
implications for North Dakota farmers. As an example she talked about
Saskatchewan farmer Percy Schmeiser, who was found guilty in a Canadian
court of possessing Monsanto's Roundup Ready canola on his farm.

Schmeiser maintains he never purchased, bartered or stole the GM canola. He
claims it arrived on his farm by cross pollination.

"For standing up for his rights, he's lost everything," Wiley said. "We
believe companies want to have total control of farmers. The decision in
Canada was scary because it was accidental contamination."

Tom Wiley speaks about cross pollination from experience. In December 2000,
he was preparing to send 15,000 bushels of specialty soybeans to a Japanese
market when he discovered how devastating accidental contamination can be.

"When I was ready to deliver the beans in January (2001), the brokerage firm
said they (soybeans) contained 1.37 percent GMOs," he said. "The buyer in
Japan wanted less than 1 percent so the firm said they don't want the
beans."

Wiley said he was shocked with the results because he is a conventional
farmer and has never grown GM crops. His point was he was so close to a
crucial sale and lost it, with no insurance to back him up and no way to
recoup his net loss of about $10,000.

Several other farmers in North Dakota have told of similar situations.

"I was told the contamination came from honey bees," Wiley said. "They can
deposit pollen and there's nothing we can do. I see it as a trespass issue
and I get stuck with the bottom line. They're coming into my fields and
pooping in my fields and I don't like it. It's a huge liability issue and
somebody has to be liable."

Gail Wiley added that research going on at the University of Manitoba in
Winnipeg suggests that within five years of GM implementation, 100 percent
of the wheat grown in North Dakota will be contaminated and farmers would no
longer be able to purchase non-GM wheat within the state.

She added that all the canola grown in Canada today is genetically modified
and Canada has lost its canola markets in Europe because of it. That brought
original rapeseed back as a major oilseed crop in parts of Europe.

Tom Wiley said he hasn't seen a contract anywhere, nor is he aware of any
that are asking to grow GM wheat. He said that concerns him because if
farmers start growing GM wheat without contracts, there won't be anyplace to
sell it.

According to Taylor, North Dakota controls the future of the wheat industry.
"I don't think you realize how many eyes are on you with this wheat issue,"
he said. "You have the ability to just say no."

Taylor's big concern is segregation, health issues and marketing of GM
crops. "How are they going to keep it separated and who are they going to
sell it to?" he said.

According to Taylor, the only people GM wheat is going to benefit are
Monsanto and the grain markets. He said Argentine farmers are allowed to
reseed GM crops without cost, unlike in the United States and Canada,
because if most of the farmers in Argentina grow GM crops, neighboring
Brazil will eventually soften its stance and accept GMOs, thus allowing a
taboo product into large population centers.

"This is a world issue and it is in your hands," Taylor said. "Remember when
we had the problem with beef hormones in France? We sued and we won. But
France paid the fine and we lost the market. It's exactly what's going to
happen with wheat."

Taylor added that health issues with GM products are suspect at best. He
talked about the genetically modified StarLink corn controversy and said a
Minnesota farmer was injecting bovine growth hormones into his dairy cows
until they collapsed and died. When autopsies were performed, it was found
their shoulders looked like rippled potato chips. "The calcium was leaching
from their bones and getting into the milk," he said.

According to Fry, if the Legislature passes a GM wheat moratorium, that
doesn't necessarily stop North Dakota farmers from going to Montana,
Minnesota or South Dakota, purchasing GM wheat there, and bringing it back
to the state to plant. He said farmers won't be prosecuted for that, but
eventually the grain would be traced and again, clients of North Dakota
wheat would shut the door to the state and get their wheat elsewhere.

"If we don't do this, (pass legislation) we will have Europe sewed up," Tom
Wiley said. "The price of wheat will go way up."

Taylor added, "stopping GM wheat would be genius marketing. It's in your
hands."


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