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Top Italian miller to spurn gene-modified wheat

(Monday, Feb. 3, 2003 -- CropChoice news) -- Reuters: ROME - Italy's biggest miller, Grandi Molini Italiani (GMI), will avoid importing genetically modified (GM) U.S. wheat, which is moving closer to regulatory approval in the United States and elsewhere, its CEO said.

Biotech crop pioneer Monsanto Co. (MON.N) completed final regulatory submissions last month in the United States and Canada for what would be the world's first transgenic wheat.

The wheat is engineered to withstand Monsanto's glyphosate-based Roundup herbicide.

"We will not only avoid buying GM wheat but we will probably be forced to completely avoid importing from those countries/regions where it is known that GM wheat is grown," GMI's Antonio Costato told Reuters, reiterating a view stated last year.

"As president of GMI, I do not see any reason to expose the company to the risks implied by accidental contamination with GM wheat," added Costato, whose company has six mills in Italy and turns over some 1.4 million tonnes of grain annually.

The GM wheat issue is the hot topic being debated this week at the annual gathering of U.S. wheat industry groups in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

Consumer groups in Europe and elsewhere have protested against such crops, fearing health and environmental risks.