October 24, 2003



Canada Should Keep Its Mind Open on GM Wheat


Canada should keep an open mind to genetically modified (GM) wheat if it wants to maintain its present market position in world grain markets, an agricultural economist told western Canadian farmers on Thursday.


If competitors and buyers of Canadian wheat are quick to adopt the technology and reduce their weed-control costs, Canada could fall behind, Colin Carter of the University of California, Davis, told an agricultural trade symposium in Winnipeg.


Canada needs to rethink its policies and regulations and explore whether GM wheat could provide benefits, Carter said.


Monsanto Co. has applied for Canadian government approvals for a line of GM wheat, but has faced widespread opposition over fears approval could ruin export markets for Canadian wheat.


Carter was speaking at a meeting held primarily to examining what impact the loss of a historic shipping subsidy has had on western farmers, a loss he argued insignificant to bigger global challenges.


Carter said China is examining growing GM rice, and argued the country likely would be willing to explore GM wheat in the future. Brazil is another likely adopter of the new crop, Carter said.


"We have to look under every rock for productivity gains," he said.


Canadian farmers face bigger hits from gains in the Canadian dollar relative to the U.S. greenback coupled with shifts in grain production to lower-cost South America and former Soviet countries than they ever could from domestic farm policy changes, Carter said.


"It's a vicious world out there, a very competitive market," he said.