ngin - Norfolk Genetic Information Network
25 February 2003

CANADIAN BOYCOTT OF MONSANTO?/THE RISKS OF MODIFIED WHEAT/PRAIRIES TOUR AGAINST GM WHEAT

"The bottom line is, Monsanto will make the money while farmers pay the price. For Monsanto, this application is all about economics. The company has been hemorrhaging money - a $1.69 billion (U.S.) loss last year compared with profits of $295 million in the same period a year earlier. The poor financial performance led to the abrupt departure in December of the company's chief executive. Sales of Monsanto's Roundup herbicide are down. The patent has expired, allowing competitors into the market, and the company's biotech strategy has so far proven to be a loser. Roundup Ready wheat would boost herbicide sales at a time when Monsanto is surely desperate to return to profitability."

1.THE RISKS OF MODIFIED WHEAT
2.FARMERS URGED TO SEND MESSAGE TO MONSANTO
3.MAJOR PRAIRIES TOUR AGAINST GE WHEAT

***

1.THE RISKS OF MODIFIED WHEAT

February 25, 2003
The Toronto Star [via Agnet]

Stewart Wells, president of the National Farmers Union and Holly Penfound, environmental health campaign coordinator for Greenpeace Canada, write in this op-ed that on Dec. 23, while most Canadians were distracted by holiday revelry, Monsanto quietly submitted an application to a government agency for genetically modified wheat.  If all requirements are met, Canada could become the first country to allow the large-scale production and sale of Monsanto's GM wheat. While the long-standing concerns of environmentalists and consumers regarding the health and environmental risks of such crops remain, GM wheat poses a whole other set of risks that has even the most biotech friendly farmer in a panic the potential to virtually kill Canada's wheat export markets.

The authors say that at around $3 billion annually, wheat is Canada's leading agricultural product. Canada exports a full 75 per cent of its wheat. The Canadian Wheat Board estimates that customers for 82 per cent of western red spring wheat, the main type of wheat grown in Canada, do not want to buy GM wheat.

Monsanto, which has tried to present itself as willing to listen to and address these concerns, broke that promise and rushed its application forward at a time when few would be watching.

To make its new wheat, Monsanto inserted foreign genes into the DNA of western red spring wheat, the wheat used to make flour and bread. The change makes the wheat able to withstand sprays of Monsanto's powerful herbicide Roundup. The result is something that looks like wheat, but is actually a laboratory invention. Consumers the world over have, when given a choice, rejected GM products, and many companies and countries simply refuse to buy GM crops. Worse, many buyers of Canadian wheat have said they will buy no wheat from a country where the GM variety is grown.  That's why the wheat board has joined with groups such as Greenpeace and the Council of Canadians - two organizations it has clashed with in the past - to present a united front opposing GM wheat. In a series of town hall forums across the prairies, beginning in Winnipeg this week, farmers will get a chance to voice their concerns.  Fear of contamination (through cross-pollination or through accidental mixing of grains) means that even a small amount of GM wheat grown in Canada could sabotage large portions of our market. For Canadian farmers, the result would be devastating. As a spokesperson for Rank Hovis, Britain's biggest flour mill, has said, "If you do grow genetically modified wheat, we will not be able to buy any of your wheat - neither the GM nor the conventional. This has nothing to do with principle, or with trade barriers. We just cannot sell it."

Canada's wheat has an excellent reputation for high, predictable and consistent quality. It would be a herculean - many say impossible - undertaking to segregate GM wheat from traditional varieties. Even Monsanto has acknowledged that it will be impossible to ensure 100 per cent purity once GM varieties are introduced.

A University of Saskatchewan study concluded that segregation isn't feasible, and GM wheat genetics will contaminate non-GM fields and shipments. All farmers, both those growing GM wheat and those who don't, will be worse off, to the tune of $45.8 million and more than $32.3 million respectively, the study found.

The only party that can expect to make money, the study found, is Monsanto, which would generate about $157 million in net returns. So after much effort and expense, much of our market will still be lost since most of our highest paying customers have little interest in buying wheat with even 1 per cent GM contamination. The bottom line is, Monsanto will make the money while farmers pay the price.  For Monsanto, this application is all about economics. The company has been hemorrhaging money - a $1.69 billion (U.S.) loss last year compared with profits of $295 million in the same period a year earlier. The poor financial performance led to the abrupt departure in December of the company's chief executive.  Sales of Monsanto's Roundup herbicide are down. The patent has expired, allowing competitors into the market, and the company's biotech strategy has so far proven to be a loser.

Roundup Ready wheat would boost herbicide sales at a time when Monsanto is surely desperate to return to profitability.  Underlying the economic concerns is the credibility problem of the approval process for GM crops. A year ago, the Royal Society of Canada raised numerous concerns with the system's ability to ensure health and environmental safety. In addition, the approval process has no mechanism for considering the societal or economic impacts of GM crops. Farmers have no meaningful input. Those whose livelihoods are most directly affected are frozen out of the decision.  GM wheat could be the final blow for many of Canada's farmers, already struggling with drought and adverse economics. It also puts our reputation as the world's breadbasket at risk.

But there is a potential silver lining here. Some believe that at least one of the big exporting countries will refrain from allowing GM wheat in order to increase market share. This has already happened with canola, with Australia refusing to grow it, and soybeans, with Brazil refusing to grow it.

Instead of being the first country in the world to commercialize GM wheat, Canada could remain free of the controversial crop, with attendant market advantages. Prime Minister Jean Chretien could position Canada for this role by nipping GM wheat in the bud - protecting human health and the environment, and raising grain prices in the bargain.

The authors conclude that Monsanto shouldn't be setting public policy and determining when it's okay to grow GM wheat.

***

2.FARMERS URGED TO SEND MESSAGE TO MONSANTO

February 25, 2003
The Leader-Post (Regina)
B6
Murray Lyons

SASKATOON -- NFU president Stewart Wells, backed by several other NFU members, was cited as saying at a press conference Monday that if farmers are opposed to the introduction of Roundup Ready wheat, they should avoid buying Roundup herbicide, adding, "Monsanto is sensitive to changes in Roundup sales. If farmers affect Monsanto's bottom line and shareholders' profits, farmers can reverse Monsanto's decision to force GM wheat onto the market."

Monsanto spokesperson Trish Jordan of Winnipeg was cited as questioning whether the NFU campaign will have an impact, adding, "We believe that farmers will choose the products that provide value to them on their farm."

While refusing to use the word boycott, Wells said a "commercial communications strategy" allows farmers to send a message to Monsanto, the manufacturer of Roundup and the owner of a patented gene that, when inserted in a crop, gives that crop resistance to Roundup herbicide.

***

3.MAJOR PRAIRIES TOUR AGAINST GE WHEAT SET TO KICK-OFF IN WINNIPEG; PRESS CONFERENCE IN WINNIPEG TO LAUNCH A SERIES OF 11 PUBLIC MEETINGS

February 24, 2003
Council of Canadians Press Release
http://www.canadians.org/news_updates.htm?COC_token
1@@f7b5ea7b342c3fca8928d83fc3873447&step=2&id=79

Monsanto has recently submitted an application for the dissemination of Roundup Ready wheat - a wheat variety engineered to be resistant to Roundup herbicide. Government officials expect to make a decision within a year.

Approval of genetically engineered wheat would represent a major threat to farming in Canada, and it is up to the farming community and urban consumers to speak out against this new danger.

This is the message that will soon be given to Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta urban and rural communities as The Council of Canadians, the National Farmers1 Union, the Saskatchewan Organic Directorate, and the Parkland Institute organise a series of 11 public meetings in communities across the three Prairie provinces.

Under the theme Planting Seeds of Doubt: Taking a stand against genetically engineered wheat in Canada, the Tour will focus on the dangers of the genetic contamination of traditional crops, the loss of biodiversity, the inability to save seeds for replanting, the potential market loss for wheat farmers, and the rural-urban resistance against GE wheat.

WHAT:
Press Conference launching the Planting Seeds of Doubt: Taking a stand against genetically engineered wheat in Canada Tour
WHEN:
Wednesday, February 26, 2003
WHERE:
University of Manitoba WHO:
Nadège Adam [Biotechnology Campaigner, Council of Canadians]
Fred Tait [Board member, National Farmers Union]
Todd Leake [Farmer to Farmer Campaign against Genetic Engineering (USA)]
PLANTING SEEDS OF DOUBT TOUR SCHEDULE
February 26 - Winnipeg, MB 7pm at Theatre 100, St. Paul's College, 70
Dysart St, U. of Manitoba
March 1 - Melville, SK 2:30pm at Elks Hall (Corner of Main Street and
2nd Ave.)
March 3 - Humboldt, SK 7pm at Humboldt Uniplex, Highway 5
March 4 - Saskatoon, SK 7pm at St. Joseph Parish Hall, Broadway and 8th
Street
March 5 - Rosetown, SK 7pm at Legion Hall, 112 A, 1st Ave East
March 6 - Swift Current, SK 7pm at Semiarid Prairie Agricultural
Research Centre, Airport Road
March 7 - Medicine Hat, AB 7:30pm at Medicine Hat Museum and Art
Gallery, 1302 Bomford Crescent SW
March 8 - Red Deer/Rimbey, AB 7:30om at Stewart Room, Red Deer and
District Museum, 4525-47a Ave
March 10 - Camrose, AB 7:30 pm at Augustana University College, Room
C167, 4901-46 Ave
March 11 - Edmonton, AB 7:30pm at Engineering Complex, Shell Room, U.
of Alberta Campus, 91 Ave & 116 St.
March 12 - Grand Prairie, AB 7:30pm at Grande Prairie Regional College,
Room D208, 10726 106 Ave.
---
"[Monsanto] is a company that has been optimistic on the borderline of lying," said Sergey Vasnetsov, senior analyst with Lehman Brothers in New York. "Monsanto has been feeding us these fantasies for two years, and when we saw they weren't real," its stock price fell.

"...those are the two big, bad bullies in the market [Monsanto and Syngenta], so they're going to slug it out," said Bill Johnson, a weed scientist with Purdue University." - Monsanto wants to sow a genetically modified future, By Rachel Melcer, St. Louis Post-Dispatch, 02/22/2003 http://www.stltoday.com/stltoday/business/stories.nsf/Business/12F53E21B03A1A7A86256CD5006E82B2?OpenDocument&Headline=Monsanto+wants+to+sow+a+genetically+modified+future+
 


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