Consumers won’t accept GM wheat, says tri-national statement

By Caroline Scott-Thomas

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Gm wheat, Genetic engineering, Genetically modified food, Wheat, Gm

A group of organizations from the US, Canada and Australia has released a joint statement expressing their opposition to wheat industry plans to commercialize genetically modified (GM) wheat.

The group made its position known in response to a joint statement released last month by a group of wheat industry representative bodies that vowed to synchronize plans for the commercialization of GM wheat. There are currently no GM varieties of wheat commercially available.

The statement, “Definitive Global Rejection of Genetically Engineered Wheat”, ​centers on the lack of consumer acceptance for GM wheat, lack of agronomic benefits of existing GM crops, and disputes the idea that wheat is less favored by farmers than GM crops.

“Locally-bred varieties are critical to ensuring local food supplies during times of weather-related disasters,” ​the statement reads. “In Australia, Canada, and the US, farmers and public scientists have worked collectively with this diversity to develop varieties adapted to local conditions and suited to relevant markets. Multinational seed companies have played an insignificant role in fundamental wheat seed development in these countries or anywhere else in the world.”

It says that introduction of GM wheat would put the seed supply in the hands of a small number of powerful companies and that cross-contamination from GM wheat could threaten the survival of varieties bred for local conditions.

Losing out to GM?

A key argument in last month’s wheat industry statement was that acreage planted to wheat was in decline as arable farmers turn to other grains with “the advantages of biotech traits.”

But this latest tri-national statement said that Canadian farmers are moving away from GM crops because of higher production costs.

It said: “A March 2009 Statistics Canada survey of farmers in western Canada found that farmers plan to increase acreage of wheat, barley and peas, crops for which there are no GE varieties and where plant breeding is primarily in the public sector.”

Common ground

The statement echoes – but goes further than – the standpoint of the Canadian Wheat Board (CWB) which refused to sign the industry’s collaborative statement last month on the grounds that there is too much consumer resistance to GM wheat to make its introduction feasible at present. CWB, which sells wheat and barley in Western Canada, was also strongly opposed to the introduction of Monsanto’s Roundup Ready wheat in 2004.

Unlike the signatories to the anti-GM statement, however, CWB is working to gain greater consumer acceptance of GM wheat.

US signatories to the GM rejection statement are Center for Food Safety, National Family Farm Coalition, Western Organization of Resource Councils, Organic Consumers Association.

Canadian signatories are National Farmers Union, Canadian Biotechnology Action Network, Union Paysanne, Union Biologique Paysanne, Réseau Québécois contre les OGM, and Saskatchewan Organic Directorate.

And Australian signatories are the Network of Concerned Farmers,

Organic Federation of Australia, Biological Farmers of Australia, and

Gene Ethics.

International organization Greenpeace also signed the statement.

The full statement can be accessed here​.

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