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Wheat Industry Worried Over EU Labeling Regulations

Wheat Growers Struggle Over Biotech
7/15/2002, Edited by Willie Vogt, E-Content Director, Farm Progress

Last week's news that the European Parliament was moving forward with a
move to require farm-to-table labeling of biotech products, and reducing
the acceptable standard for biotech-free labeling to 0.5%, has at least one
wheat group concerned.

U.S. Wheat Associates notes that Europe is the fourth largest export
customer of U.S. wheat and the second largest customer of hard red spring
wheat.

U.S. Wheat is also part of a group of organizations committed to
maintaining what it calls "efficient international trade." Called the
International Grain Trade Coalition (IGTC), the group is working on such
issues as labeling bulk grain trade according to proposed regulations. A
key issue is threshold tolerances for biotech content in bulk grains.

The IGTC notes that the new European Biosafety Protocol negotiators "seem
to basically recognize that a zero tolerance threshold is not practical,"
notes a recent U.S. Wheat newsletter. The newsletter adds "there is not
international agreement on acceptable thresholds for the unintentional
presence of GMOs that will be found in grain shipments."

The key worry continues to be liability on the part of the shipper if
unauthorized threshold levels of biotech content are found in shipments.
Without a defined liability, the shipper has few choices:

Refuse to ship biotech grains.
Contractually shift liability to the supplier.
Entire industry will act to secure comprehensive international approval
prior to any introduction of a genetic event in commercial channels.
As work on biotech wheat continues through the pipeline, U.S. Wheat
continues to "urge biotech companies to delay commercialization of GM wheat
until there is customer acceptance as well as regulatory approvals in U.S.
wheat markets."


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