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31 July 2002

MONSANTO PULLS BACK ON GM WHEAT

New York Times, July 31, 2002
Delay Is Seen for Genetically Modified Wheat
By ANDREW POLLACK

Monsanto has pulled back from its stated timeline for bringing the first genetically modified wheat to market by 2005, company spokesmen said yesterday.

The company, based in St. Louis, is not acknowledging that the crop will be delayed. But it is no longer stating a timetable, saying only that it will bring the crop to market after it meets certain goals, like building demand for the product and devising a system for segregating the genetically engineered wheat from other wheat.

The new position reflects the difficulty the company has been having in winning acceptance for the crop. Wheat millers in Japan and Europe, large markets for American wheat, say they do not want the genetically modified product. And some American farmers fear that genetically engineered wheat will be mixed in with other wheat, hurting exports in general.

In a speech at a meeting on Monday of U.S. Wheat Associates, a trade organization that promotes exports, the head of a large Italian wheat miller said his company would "stop buying U.S. or Canadian wheat at once" if genetically modified wheat were introduced.

A spokesman for Monsanto, Mark Buckingham, said the company was planning to file this year for regulatory approval of Roundup Ready wheat, which has a gene that allows it to withstand the company's Roundup herbicide. But he said that Monsanto would not introduce the product until it had "industry acceptance across the board," which will take more time.

Genetically engineered crops that have already reached the market - mainly soybeans, corn and cotton - continue to gain in popularity among farmers. But concerns about consumer resistance are making it hard for any new genetically engineered crop to gain a foothold among buyers.

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