Last month, Canada, the United States, and Australia announced unprecedented plans to join forces and commercialize genetically-engineered wheat, saying that biotechnology was crucial to the future of the wheat industry. The National Farmers Union of Canada, however, immediately refuted the tri-country claim, pointing out “the overwhelming majority of farmers in Canada are still opposed to the introduction of genetically-modified wheat.”
On June 1, fifteen organizations across Canada, the United States and Australia publicly confirmed that opposition with the release of “A Definitive Global Rejection of Genetically Engineered Wheat“, a powerful document speaking out against biotech wheat.
But the battle against GM wheat is not a simple one, nor is it restrained to select countries.
Money’s voice shouts more loudly than the voice of caution, and despite concern from consumers, genetic modification forges onward around the world. China has already dedicated millions of dollars to GM wheat. Kenya is poised to test GM wheat crops. Mexico is home to the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Centre, where GM wheat research is ongoing.
And then, enter Monsanto, with Roundup-Ready Wheat in one fist and Roundup in the other.
Monsanto’s massive success in swiftly gaining — or rather, overtaking — any particular market should not be taken lightly. Take Monsanto’s Roundup-Ready Sugar Beets, for instance. Grown commercially for the first time just last year, the genetically engineered beets will comprise over 90% of this year’s US sugar beet harvest. Monsanto seeks to gather the same widespread acceptance for Roundup-Ready Wheat. “We’re encouraged,” says Monsanto’s Trish Jordan. “There may be some opportunity for us to re-enter the wheat space” following the failed 2004 attempt.
But Canada’s Farmers Union, the Organic Federation of Australia, the US Organic Consumers Association and other organizations backing the Definitive Global Rejection of Genetically Engineered Wheat don’t want to give Monsanto that opportunity. In the statement, the signers argue the following points:
- Genetically-modified wheat crops will contaminate nearby wheat varieties, harming the diversity of wheat around the world and endangering the stability of the global wheat supply .
- Roundup-Ready Wheat is genetically modified to be resistant to Roundup (glyphosate), but has not been altered to boost crop output. This means more Roundup will be used than before, but the amount of wheat harvest will remain the same.
- Production costs of genetically-modified crops such as Roundup-Ready Wheat tend to be higher than conventional crops due to expensive seeds and herbicides.
- Higher quality wheat can be, and has been, achieved through conventional plant breeding rather than through genetic engineering.
- Unlike many genetically-modified crops grown for fuel and animal fodder, Roundup-Ready Wheat will be grown for human consumption. Some countries require all genetically-modified commodities to be labeled, yet research indicates that consumers reject genetically-modified food when it is labeled as such.
- Seed patents to many genetically-modified crops are owned by giant agriculture corporations. Because of these patents, farmers are no longer permitted to save seed from season to season.
Roundup-Ready Wheat poses a severe threat to farmers, the world food supply, the environment and our health. We can’t just stand idly by as our global food sovereignty vanishes. Keep Monsanto’s wheat from taking root. Tell our government “Consumers Say No.”
Image via Bern@t on Flickr under a Creative Commons License