Wheatless Wednesday: 6 Reasons to Reject Monsanto’s Roundup-Ready Wheat

Monsanto Wheat

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:

  1. 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 .
  2. 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.
  3. Production costs of genetically-modified crops such as Roundup-Ready Wheat tend to be higher than conventional crops due to expensive seeds and herbicides.
  4. Higher quality wheat can be, and has been, achieved through conventional plant breeding rather than through genetic engineering.
  5. 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.
  6. 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

7 thoughts on “Wheatless Wednesday: 6 Reasons to Reject Monsanto’s Roundup-Ready Wheat”

  1. Valentine Dyall

    It is amazing how much can be misrepresented in six brief points:

    1. All wheat crops “contaminate” other wheats. The movement of genes from GM-wheat would be no different from any other; the word “contaminate” is used deliberately to provoke concern. Don’t forget that wheat is wholly a human construct and does not exist in the wild.

    2. No more production but more spent on herbicide? Then what would be the point? Are farmers that stupid, spending their time and effort primarily to make the seed companies richer – or is the author trying to wind people up?

    3. Higher seed costs are more than balanced by higher productivity. That is why 13 million farmers around the world use GM seeds, with more joining them every year. Or are they, too, motivated simply to fill the coffers of the seed companies?

    4. Good – so let them compete; farmers and consumers can make up their own minds what to use and what to buy.

    5. Except for cotton, all the major GM crops currently in use serve as food both for humans an animals. Contrary to the claims of the author, research in the European Union at any rate shows that consumers, whatever they may tell pollsters, are actually largely indifferent to a GM label. What governs the purchases of GM crops is mostly whether the retailers put them on the shelves. If they are not there, people cannot buy them. If they are on sale, people do buy.

    6. GM or not, farmers in many countries buy certified seeds afresh each year for the benefits in yield they offer. Nobody forces them to buy GM seeds if they don’t want to; they can stick to the older conventional varieties and save their seeds if they want to; another red herring.

  2. Wow Valentine,

    It’s amazing how much you can misrepresent a misrepresentation and contradict yourself at the same time.

    First off, you’re absolutely correct in saying that wheat is a human produced crop and that genes spread all the time. However, see if you can follow this logic.

    Roundup-genes have been found in all sorts of places where they’ve never been intentionally planted. The genes “contaminate” supposedly conventional varieties. Once these varieties have the roundup-ready gene in it, Monsanto is 100% justified in pursuing patent infringement lawsuits, which they’ve done. So in some cases, farmers are “forced”, not with a gun pointed at their head, but by the logic of the law and the market, to purchase GM seeds in order to avoid a more expensive law suit.

    Also, in many parts of the world grain distributed as part of food aid is reused as seed (seeds are grains, grains are seeds) and thus farmers often unknowingly use GM varieties, which because they tend to produce more when used with the “right” combination of fertilizers and pesticides (often manufactured and sold by the company who sells the seed), leads the farmer to hop on the GM treadmill with both seed and inputs required to be purchased together in order to achieve the supposedly magical high yields. There is ample evidence that in many parts of the developing world farmers frequently do not apply pesticides as directed / required in order to maximize benefits. Either because they cannot afford the amount and thus try to spread out what they can afford, or because the directions aren’t printed in languages they can read or because they are given poor direction by sales agents. In all these cases the result is that they fail to achieve targeted yields which often leads to debt. Farmers in many parts of the world often depend on credit in order to purchase inputs. The more inputs they need the more credit they need. The more credit they need the more they need to be able to establish that they can pay it back. The supposed magic formula of Round-up ready seed + Monsanto Round-up looks attractive to lenders who often steer farmers towards using what they perceive to be a more reliable crop. But if yields don’t match targets the farmer is in more debt and thus more likely to try to cut costs by doing things like messing with input application, which, you guessed it, replicates the cycle. So yeah, farmers aren’t “forced” but boy the system sure seems pretty rigged, especially when gene flows undermine the legality of “conventional crops”

    I do agree, that pt. 2 is a bit misleading in that the logic beyond yield and round-up ready is that yields will increase because weeding is more effective. So yes the yield is higher, but again only when the right cocktail of inputs is deployed.

    So let’s review my evaluation of your rebuttal.

    Pt. 1. yup, a red herring, contaminate is perhaps a bit political as you say, but gene transfer of the roundup-ready gene is very much a problem

    Pt. 2. Farmers aren’t stupid, but the system isn’t set up in order to get them on the treadmill. Once they are on, it’s hard to get off and if the companies mess with prices, well…guess who looses…not Monsanto (how’s there stock doing in this crisis? that’s what I thought).

    Pt. 3. If higher costs are matched by higher productivity why are so many farmers world wide in such debt? Does it have anything to do with one of the impacts of higher productivity, which is systematic overproduction? Perhaps? So productivity is a red herring. It is the relationship between costs, productivity, and market price which we need to pay attention to.

    Pt. 4 Um, when companies like Monsanto lobby against labeling how can consumers make informed choices? Isn’t information essential?

    Pt. 5 Nice redirect there…but maybe we can put some citations on the table and get a better idea of how valid this critique is.

    Pt. 6 Well see what I wrote above.

    Nice try…

  3. My concern is who is going to be able to eat it… everyone I know is being diagnosed already with wheat intolerance due to the contamination that has already occurred, of what benefit is it really serving. The one and only, the almighty dollar. It is odd to me that we live in such a great country and repeatedly big business is allowed to dictate what we eat and who we will support. What has happened to simply eating and drinking our given earth’s produce without all of the chaos…

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top