E-mail this article to
yourself or a friend.
Enter address:


Farmer bothered by Montana Grain Growers Assoc. press release on genetically modified wheat

(Thursday, April 29, 2004 -- CropChoice guest commentary) -- Giles Stockton letter to the editor posted on IBForums, 04/22/04: There was something about a Montana Grain Growers Association (MGGA) press release printed on page 8 of the April 2 Agri-News (MGGA Disappointed With Monsanto Decision) that bothered me, but it took a couple of days of mulling it over before I understood why. It wasn’t what was said, it was what wasn’t. The MGGA press release announced their objection to the Monsanto Company’s intention to release a genetically modified wheat strain (Roundup Ready) in the United States but not Canada.

Canada will not allow introduction of genetically modified (GM) wheat in their country. [CropChoice editor's note: Actually the Canadian government hasn't decided.] The MGGA is concerned that if the Roundup Ready wheat is released in the United States and the Asian countries make good on their threat to not buy wheat from countries that raise GM wheat, Canada will be in a position to supply Asian markets with non-GM conventional wheat. What bothers me is the MGGA’s apparent willingness to allow Monsanto to contaminate the world’s wheat supply with genetically modified varieties ON THE CONDITION that everyone’s wheat is contaminated at the same time.

What a completely arrogant and shortsighted position on the part of the MGGA! You would think that the people running the outfit would look at the record and conclude that we should think before contaminating the wheat. Already canola, corn, and soybeans have been contaminated with Monsanto’s GM varieties. The marketing and distribution system cannot segregate GM from non-GM grains. The Starlink disaster alone has cost US corn farmers billions in foreign sales. The wind has cross-pollinated all of the Canola grown in North America with GM genes - a disaster for farmers who were raising “organic” canola.

Why is Monsanto’s right to contaminate the wheat more important to MGGA than the right of “no-till” wheat farmers who will not be able to chemically fallow fields once they become infested with “roundup ready” wheat? Why is Monsanto more important than organic wheat farmers, who will have great difficulty keeping stray GM wheat plants out of their fields? Heck! What about consumers who don’t want GM contaminated bread? Shouldn’t they have a say? It is not as though MGGA has a good record in the policies they have supported. In fact the MGGA policy record is a long list of disasters.

MGGA was behind the “Freedom to Farm” Bill which instead resulted in “farming for free”. That farm bill was supposed to make farming market driven and take the government out of the farming business. The result is that farmers are more dependent on subsidies than before and the government never more in control of farming decisions. MGGA inspired farm policy on previous farm bills was no more successful. Remember the notion that if “we” forced grain prices low enough the rest of the world’s farmers would founder, and American farmers would have sole and prosperous access to the worlds grain markets. How many US farmers and taxpayers’ dollars did that prize winning policy cost?

Given their record, I wonder why farmers still allow the MGGA to represent them? But wheat farmers seem real quiet about the GM wheat issue and Federal farm policy in general. At least the people raising cattle are having a loud and sometimes rancorous debate about important issues including market competition, beef imports, country of origin labeling, meat inspection, etc. This is what democracy is all about. Wheat farmers need to start discussing the important issues facing farming. They can’t assume that export markets and government subsidies will just be there for them.

Sincerely yours,

Gilles Stockton
Grass Range, Mt. 59032