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South Koreans Take Stand Against Genetically Altered Wheat

4/30/2003

South Korean flour millers plan to "boycott" U.S. wheat if genetically altered wheat is introduced in the United States, a delegation of millers said at the conclusion of a U.S. tour today.

Korean companies fear that if they purchase genetically modified wheat for flour and other products consumer groups will stage demonstrations urging consumers not to buy their products, Il Woong Kim, president of the Shinhan Flour Mills Co. Ltd. in Seoul, told a news conference in Washington. Kim also said he stopped buying U.S. corn since the StarLink incident in 2000 in which corn that was not approved for human consumption made its way into consumer products.

Kim said he could buy conventional corn from the United States, but it is $10 to $15 per metric ton higher than genetically modified corn.

Even if USDA certifies that U.S. wheat contains no genetically modified organisms, the Korean Flour Mills Industrial Association told North Dakota's agriculture commissioner that they also want state certification that its hard red spring wheat contains no GMOs. An association spokesman said the group demanded the certificate because genetic modification for hard red spring wheat is more advanced than that of other varieties. Hi Sang Lee, chairman of the Korean Flour Mills Industrial Association, expressed concern that the introduction of genetically modified wheat will damage the market for wheat from other countries because of consumer mistrust.

The Korean group purchased 208,000 metric tons of wheat during their trip, which included stops in Oregon, Montana and North Dakota. Korea has bought a total of 1.6 million metric tons of wheat this year and ranks fifth in U.S. wheat purchases, behind Japan's 3.3 million metric tons, Mexico's 2.5 million metric tons, Nigeria's 1.8 million metric tons and the Philippines' 1.65 million metric tons. -- by Jerry Hagstrom

 
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