GE Free New Zealand in Food & Environment, 15th January 2004

Crop and Food selling NZ a 'lemon' as sister agency drops GE Wheat Project

The decision by Crop and Food's sister-organisation in Canada to quit its role in developing GE wheat is a clear signal that New Zealanders are being sold a lemon in the form of Crop and Food GE onions and other Crown Research Institutions blind push to pursue GE experiments.

Agriculture Canada is abandoning a long-running project involving genetically engineered wheat it developed in partnership with biotech giant Monsanto. Monsanto is also linked to the GE onion trials in New Zealand aimed at developing crops that will survive toxic sprays manufactured by Monsanto.

Commenting on the decision Jim Bole from Agriculture Canada said the biotech revolution in agriculture has not lived up to expectations.

"I'm afraid it (GE agriculture) was oversold," Mr. Bole said.

Canada's economy has already suffered from widespread contamination of canola by GM varieties, and AgCan's decision reflects almost universal opposition, to the introduction of GE wheat, from farmers, food manufacturers, the grain industry, overseas markets, and consumers.

"It is time for Crop and Food to wake up to the fact that their proposed research is dead in the water - not least because the evidence shows it will not reduce chemical sprays as claimed. There is no market whatsoever for the end-product," says Jon Carapiet from GE Free New Zealand in food and environment.

GE Free NZ in food and environment have already formally requested a review of ERMA's approval, given the decision failed to take note of recent proof from the US that GE crops, like the onions being trailed, have increased use of sprays.

The ombudsman is also looking into a complaint about ERMA’s recent about turn, which has now made important information, previously obtainable under the Official Information Act, unavailable to public submitters.

The Canadian decision adds weight to the fear that New Zealanders are being deliberately led down the garden path to nowhere.

"Taxpayers' money is being wasted because of what appears to be ideological commitment in the government and in Crown Research Institutions to push release of GE crops at any cost- regardless of the scientific, economic and ethical reasons not to do so," says Mr. Carapiet.

Contact Jon Carapiet 09 815 3370

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Reference:
http://www.canoe.ca/NationalTicker/CANOE-wire.Genetic-Wheat.htmlCNEWS
CANADA January 9, 2004 AgCan ends testing of GE wheat developed with Monsanto

OTTAWA (CP) -- Agriculture Canada is abandoning a long-running project involving genetically engineered wheat it developed in partnership with biotech giant Monsanto, amid doubts about how well the product would sell.

Regulatory authorities continue to assess the risks and benefits of Roundup Ready wheat, but the AgCan decision suggests that scientific hopes for the first strain of biotech wheat may be dimming.

Jim Bole of Agriculture Canada said the department will make no further investment in the crop it has developed with Monsanto since 1997.

"There's still some testing going on that does involve our scientists . . . but Ag Canada is not contributing more funds toward it," Bole said in an
interview from Winnipeg.

"We're no longer developing Roundup Ready wheat with Monsanto." Asked if the department's decision reflects concern about whether Canada's wheat customers would accept the new strain of wheat, Bole replied: "Yes, I think it does."'

The AgCan-Monsanto contract is confidential, but Bole said the company invested $1.3 million while the department invested $500,000. The department also gave Monsanto access to state-of-the-art genetic material developed over many years of research.

Monsanto spokeswoman Trish Jordan played down the significance of the AgCan decision to end the collaboration, saying its purpose had been achieved and there was no reason to extend it.

Jordan said Monsanto still hopes to commercialize Roundup Ready wheat, But will not do anything to jeopardize Canada's wheat markets. 
"Biotechnology has a lot to offer to wheat production in Western Canada and we're trying to find ways to make this doable and come up with solutions rather than just stopping all work altogether. 
"Certainly as a company we're not going to do anything to jeopardize the ability of Western Canadian farmers to market their grain."

Roundup Ready wheat is resistant to Roundup, a popular herbicide. It allows farmers to easily kill weeds without killing their wheat plants. 
But many countries have been reluctant to embrace genetically Engineered foods, and there are concerns that the new wheat plants could turn into superweeds.

The Canadian Wheat Board has said most of its customers don't want the New strain and last year it asked Monsanto to withdraw its application for regulatory approval.

Bole said the Agriculture Canada scientists had learned a lot from Working with Monsanto, and the collaboration seemed promising at the outset in 1997. Currently, however, "Agriculture Canada would probably no longer Anticipate a return on their investment."

He said the biotech revolution in agriculture has not lived up to expectations.

"I'm afraid it was oversold. We expected to be growing crops at this time with many traits that would be of great value to consumers and producers. "But the regulatory area has been much more stringent than anyone anticipated and market acceptance hasn't been as positive as we would have
anticipated."

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