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GM wheat won’t make dough, warns economist

(Thursday, Feb. 13, 2003 -- CropChoice news) -- From a news release.

CONTACT: Brandy Hinkle: 406-252-9672
Dr. Robert Wisner: 515-294-7318, wisner@iastate.edu

Billings – The price of spring wheat could drop by about one-third if a genetically modified (GM) variety is introduced commercially into Montana or North Dakota in the next two to six years, according to an agricultural economist.

Dr. Robert Wisner, University Professor of Economics at Iowa State University , testified to the Montana legislature last week. According to Dr. Wisner, many European and Asian grain buyers will likely refuse to buy any spring or durum wheat from states or regions that grow genetically modified wheat.

“Every available indicator of foreign consumer demand points to a high risk of GM wheat rejection in export markets,” Dr. Wisner said.

Monsanto, a multinational biotechnology company, plans to introduce genetically modified wheat into Montana , North Dakota and other states by 2005. Monsanto's “Roundup Ready” wheat is genetically engineered to resist the herbicide Roundup.

“Concerns of foreign consumers center around food and environmental safety questions, and perceived inadequacy of U.S. GM testing and approval processes,” Dr. Wisner said. “Consumer attitudes are the driving force in markets, regardless of whether or not they are scientifically valid.

Wisner said that foreign government approval does not assure consumer acceptance of GM wheat.

“In the past four years the U.S. has lost over a billion dollars of corn and soybean meal exports because of foreign GMO concerns,” said Wisner. According to Wisner, the risk of loss is higher with wheat since more of it is exported, and more of it will be labeled. Wisner also noted that other wheat-exporting countries have non-GM wheat supplies to sell buyers who don’t want U.S. GM wheat.

Wisner testified in support of the Montana Wheat Protection and Promotion Act, which would require Monsanto and other companies to show that genetically modified wheat can be marketed overseas, and that GM wheat and conventional wheat can be segregated before they can sell genetically modified in Montana . He will testify to the North Dakota legislature on Thursday in support of a similar bill.

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A summary of Dr. Wisner’s report, which was submitted to state legislators, is available at http://www.worc.org.