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Monsanto rep. fields tough questions from wheat farmers

(Monday, April 7, 2003 -- CropChoice news) -- The following is a news release from the Northern Plains Resource Council.

CONTACT: Amy Frykman, Northern Plains' staff; 406-248-1154
Dan Dutton, Montana farmer, 406-664-3000

BILLINGS - A representative of Monsanto Co - a biotech company seeking to introduce genetically engineered wheat into Montana - fielded tough questions from Montana wheat farmers last night at a public presentation at Rocky Mountain College.

Trent Clark, director of public and government affairs for Monsanto's phosphorus business in Soda Springs, Idaho, traveled to Montana to discuss corporate responsibility at a public lecture. Farmers and other concerned citizens attended the presentation to voice concerns about Monsanto's plans in introduce genetically engineered wheat into Montana.

"Mr. Clark talked a lot about how Monsanto values listening," said Dan Dutton, a Belfry farmer and member of Northern Plains Resource Council. "I'd like to see them listen to farmers who are buying their seed and listen to the customers who are buying our product down the road. Our customers won't accept genetically engineered wheat. Why should we plant what we can't sell?"

Two out of three bushels of Montana's wheat are exported to countries that have repeatedly said they will not buy genetically engineered wheat. Because grain storage and shipping systems are not equipped to keep genetically engineered grains separate from traditional varieties, many worry the commercial introduction of Monsanto's wheat could hurt all Montana wheat farmers.

A recent study by Dr. Robert Wisner - a leading grain market economist - indicates that Montana could lose up to 50% of its foreign market for hard red spring wheat, in addition to suffering a 30% devaluation of wheat, if "Roundup Ready" wheat is commercially introduced in the next two to five years.

Monsanto's "Roundup Ready" wheat is genetically engineered to be resistant to the herbicide Roundup. Monsanto has moved forward with plans to introduce its wheat into Montana and other states by 2005.

Several measures aimed at protecting wheat farmers from economic damages caused by the introduction of genetically engineered failed to win lawmakers' approval at the 2003 Montana Legislature. One final measure - a study resolution providing for further study of the issue before the next session, will be heard by the Senate Agriculture Committee on April 9th.

NOTE: Dr. Robert Wisner's study on genetically engineered wheat's impacts on Montana's export markets is available at: http://www.northernplains.org


Amy Frykman
Communications Coordinator
Northern Plains Resource Council
108 S. Bozeman Avenue
Bozeman, MT 59715