September 21, 2011


Canada unsupportive of GM wheat



As there is no market for GM wheat, Canada's farmers are not keen to push for the crop, according to the marketing group in charge of one of Canada's top exports after the British government approved trials on GM wheat starting next year.


From a competitive standpoint, the Canadian Wheat Board is not too concerned about the UK's decision to test pest resistant wheat either, said Maureen Fitzhenry, a spokesman for the CWB.


That is because the competitive advantage comes from selling what buyers want, she said. And in today's market, that is non-genetically modified wheat.


"In the current climate, there is an argument to be made that the people who are not testing genetically modified wheat may be further ahead in the game," Fitzhenry said.


GM wheat is not being grown anywhere in North America although Canada did sign on to the G20's International Research Initiative for Wheat Improvement (IRIWI) just last week along with France, Britain and eight others.


"We know that by 2050, we will need to raise wheat output by 70% to meet people's needs so there is an urgency to improve genetic progress," said Nicolas Trift, scientific adviser to French Agriculture Minister Bruno Le Maire.


Despite increasing global food supply concerns, some of the world's top consumers, including Japan and the EU, still have very strong objections to GM products, especially food staples, Fitzhenry said.


"There are some customers who do not even want one kernel of GM grain in a boatload which may be an unrealistic expectation as we move forward into an era where there are more GM products, maybe not of wheat but of other types of grain that are travelling in the same ships," Fitzhenry said.


"We do recognise that GM wheat may have the potential to offer benefits to farmers and buyers who are looking for food security as the number of people in the world continues to grow," she said, adding that crop seed companies, at least so far, have not been able to convince producers of that.