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Canadian farmer urges rejection of GM wheat

By Marc Loiselle
Farmer and member of the Saskatchewan Organic Directorate (SOD)

(Monday, Nov. 25, 2002 -- CropChoice guest commentary) -- Since 1998, in small research plots at numerous locations across Western Canada, Monsanto has been testing their genetically engineered variety of hard red spring wheat with resistance to its Roundup herbicide. Considering the potential contamination risks involved with these plots that have isolation zones surrounding them, it is much more worrying when considering what would happen if this transgenic wheat is allowed to be grown commercially with inadequate isolations zones or likely no isolation zones at all such as has been the practice with GE canola.

As has been clearly demonstrated with GE canola, the widespread contamination of other non-GE canola, including organic canola, and its persistence in farmers’ fields and the environment has led to many problems. Monsanto’s herbicide resistant wheat would be no different. Widespread, uncontrollable contamination would result, eventually leading to all Western Canadian wheat being deemed genetically engineered. This would effectively prevent organic farmers from growing and selling certified organic wheat and would likewise affect all farmers’ ability to market wheat that is free of genetic pollution.

Roundup Ready wheat is unacceptable from a market point of view because the vast majority of customers have clearly indicated they do not want GE wheat.

Monsanto and the Canadian government don’t seem to realize that the livelihoods of Canadian farmers and the viability of a key export commodity are at stake. If they really want to be ‘open and honest’ they’ll let an anxious farm community know the status of the application and put an end to this looming threat.

Roundup Ready wheat is going to become a major problem for farmers, consumers and the environment. That must be why Monsanto and the government are doing their best to keep it as secretive as possible; because once this wheat is released, there will be no turning back.

The Saskatchewan Organic Directorate is facilitating a class action lawsuit against Monsanto to have an injunction preventing the company from introducing their herbicide resistant wheat into the environment. Losing organic canola was bad enough. Losing wheat would be devastating. We need vision and hope for a future in agriculture, but clearly not the one that Monsanto is planning.

Marc delivered this statement to the press last week as part of Greenpeace Canada's launch of its report, Against The Grain: The Threat of Genetically Engineered Wheat. Executive summary is available at http://www.greenpeace.ca/e/resource/publications/gmo/exec_summary_wheat_report_11-02.pdf

To download the full report, go to: http://www.greenpeace.ca/e/index.php