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US Farmers Determined
to Block GE Wheat

Grand Forks Herald (North Dakota)
August 19, 2002
No GMO, please;
Biotech opponents outline objections to GM wheat

BY: Jerry W. Kram Agweek Staff Writer

Three outspoken opponents to the introduction of genetically modified wheat
say farmers should weigh the costs of growing Roundup Ready crops along with
the benefits.

Todd Leake of Emerado, N.D., Janet Jacobson of Wales, N.D., and Gail Wiley
of Montpelier, N.D., participated in a panel discussion on genetically
modified wheat at the annual meeting of Grand Forks County (N.D.) Concerned
Citizens, an affiliate of the Dakota Resource Council. All three speakers
farm in eastern North Dakota.

The introduction of genetically modified wheat threatens to cripple U.S.
farmer's ability to export wheat, Leake says. Under an international
agreement known as the Biosafety Protocol, countries are allowed to ban the
importation of genetically modified crops. Many of the largest importers of
wheat have publicly declared they will not buy genetically modified wheat.

Since 60 percent of North Dakota's spring wheat is exported, the
consequences could be devastating to the region's economy. Grand Forks
is an island in a sea of wheat, Leake says. Hard red spring wheat is here to
stay in North Dakota. There is no market in the world for genetically modified
wheat. That puts farmers between a rock and a hard place.

Leake says he is a conventional farmer who uses a lot of pesticides. He
doesn't grow any genetically modified crops, although he admits that is
partially because there are few GM varieties available that are adapted to
northern North Dakota for the crops he grows - wheat, dry beans, sunflowers
and soybeans. He was a vocal advocate for a moratorium on the sale of
genetically modified wheat in the 2001 North Dakota Legislature. The
moratorium was defeated, but the Legislature did agree to study the issue.
Leake says the moratorium will be introduced again in the 2003 legislative
session.

Farmers' rights

The patents that allow companies to develop genetically modified crops are a
threat to farmers' rights, Wiley says. The technology agreements that
farmers sign make it illegal for farmers to save seed to plant the next
year. She says that in the case of the agreements used by Monsanto, the
document shields the company from any liability from damages from the crop,
making the farmer shoulder the burden for any harm caused by the technology.
Wiley and her husband, Tom, became active in the fight against genetically
modified crops when they had a shipment of food grade soybeans rejected by a
customer because it was contaminated with a small amount of genetically
modified beans. Since then, the Wileys have become ambassadors against the
widespread use of genetically modified crops. They have traveled to Europe
and Australia to meet with farm groups opposed to GM crops. Tom Wiley also
traveled to Doha, Qatar, when the World Trade Organization was meeting
there.

There no longer is any organic canola grown in the United States, Jacobson
says. She is president of the Northern Plains Sustainable Agriculture
Society, an organization of organic farmers. It is becoming increasingly
difficult to get corn and soybean seed that will meet organic standards -
which only allow 1 percent or often less genetically modified seed content.
It is getting harder to grow and market these crops into the organic market,
she says. If genetically modified wheat is introduced, she says it will be
almost impossible to have a consistent rotation of organic crops on her
farm.

How safe is safe?Jacobson also takes aim at the safety claims made by
companies that produce genetically modified crops. According to Jacobson,
the U.S. Department of Agriculture and federal Food and Drug Administration
do not evaluate the safety of genetically modified crops because they are
considered to functionally similar to non-modified crops.

Opponents of GM crops are portrayed as emotional, irrational and using bad
science, Jacobson says. But the only studies on the safety of these crops
are done by Monsanto and the other companies, who keep them secret and don't
allow them to be peer reviewed by other scientists. Anyone will tell you,
not allowing your studies to be peer reviewed is bad science.

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