July 17, 2009
Although the development of biotech wheat is being welcomed by US growers, there is still considerable reluctance in the debate concerning the allowance of genetic modification in a crop that is linked so directly to the food chain.
July 17, 2009
By Carey Gillam
KANSAS CITY – Many U.S. farmers have welcomed renewed efforts by biotech crop leader Monsanto Co to genetically modified wheat, but convincing world markets to embrace genetic alteration of the key food crop remains a high hurdle to overcome.
Monsanto added fuel to a debate over biotech wheat on Tuesday when it announced it was buying WestBred LLC, a wheat germplasm specialist as a platform to develop higher-yielding biotech wheat that would be more tolerant of drought and require less nitrogen.
Along with Monsanto, rival seed technology companies such as Syngenta AG, BASF and Dow AgroSciences, a unit of Dow Chemical Co, are pouring resources into wheat development. Some companies are focusing on transgenic alterations using DNA from other species and some are manipulating genes already found in wheat.
Currently there is no biotech wheat grown on a commercial-scale anywhere in the world due to opposition from consumers and food industry players.
Most notably, Japan, one of the world's largest importers of wheat and a leading critic of past efforts to introduce genetically altered wheat, remains a steadfast opponent. Many European countries also continue to resist genetically modified crops.
"There is still strong concern and some opposition," said Alan Tracy, president of U.S. Wheat Associates, the industry's global market development organization that has been working to convince Japan and other countries to accept biotech wheat.