November 19, 2003

 

 

Monsanto Plans To Resume USDA GM Wheat Petition This Year

 

The Monsanto Co. plans to resume the petition process with the U.S. Department of Agriculture for approval of the company's biotech hard red spring wheat this year, a Monsanto representative said Tuesday.

 

In June, USDA said it found at least one "deficiency" in Monsanto's petition for approval of its biotech wheat variety. USDA officials said the deregulation process would be indefinitely delayed until Monsanto responded.

 

Monsanto spokeswoman Shannon Troughton said "we expect to respond (to USDA) by the end of the year."

 

USDA and Monsanto would not comment on what is seen as deficient.

 

USDA regulations state that petitioners are owed a response within 180 days after requesting approval, except in the case that USDA finds a deficiency in the data presented in the petition, according to USDA officials. The 180-day period begins again from the start if the company responds to the deficiency issued by USDA, the officials said.

 

Monsanto originally submitted its petition for deregulation of its Roundup Ready biotech wheat to USDA in late December 2002, which meant the first 180- day time period was set to expire about a week after USDA said it found the deficiency on June 17.

 

Until Monsanto responds to the deficiency that USDA said it found, "the clock has stopped" for the deregulation process, Troughton said.

 

However, she also stressed that it is a common occurrence for USDA to find deficiencies in biotech deregulation petitions.

 

Monsanto has also submitted approval petitions to the Food and Drug Administration and the Environmental Protection Agency. The FDA submission was made sometime in 2002 and the EPA in 2000.

 

Monsanto has pledged not to market its Roundup Ready wheat until it has "regulatory approvals in the U.S., Canada and Japan," and Troughton emphasized that commitment again Tuesday.

 

On its Internet site, Monsanto says the benefits of Roundup Ready wheat to farmers include "broad spectrum weed control, increased crop safety, increased yield, cleaner grain, simplified weed management, conservation- tillage enhancement."