GE Free New Zealand in Food & Environment, 12th  May 2004

Shadow cast on GE foods as Monsanto drops GE wheat

The decision by Monsanto to halt development of its GE wheat is a triumph for consumers but also raises confusion about the status of an application to sell GE wheat in New Zealand and Australia, and the legitimacy of other approvals of GE food.

Monsanto has been seen as railroading GE Wheat into the Australasian foodchain, though approval to grow it had not been given in the US or Canada. 

However, there are concerns that third-world countries with poor regulation may now become a stalking-ground for the biotech company after the rejection by developed nations.

There is also concern that data used to approve other GE foods has been deeply flawed and demands that those approvals be cancelled until a proper scientific investigation takes place.

"We don't know if Monsanto has actually withdrawn their application to import GE wheat now before Food Safety Australia New Zealand (FSANZ)," says Jon Carapiet from GE Free NZ in food and environment.

"We are still concerned that they may have snuck GM products into countries with poor or zero regulation- just because they can get away with it. We want Monsanto to declare they have not released any GE wheat anywhere in the world, or to be brought to account if they have," says Mr Carapiet.

Equally concerning is the flawed science that has been used by authorities to approve other GE foods already imported into New Zealand, including animal feed.

The evidence emerging in Europe indicates the whole approach to approval has been based on flawed data. In many cases natural versions of toxins were used in tests to replace the actual proteins incorporated into GM plants.

"Companies like Monsanto are touting product success and safety yet their statistics do not meet the rigour that is demanded by sound science," says Claire Bleakley, President of GE Free (NZ)in food and environment. 

"There have been 2,000 submissions, including from scientists and medical professionals against the introduction of GE wheat into our food supply, mostly on safety grounds," she says.

In Europe Dr. Maewan Ho and Prof. Joe Cummins have exposed fatal flaws in the regulatory process and shown that GM varieties are genetically unstable and hence illegal as well as unsafe.

"The Independent Science Panel has called on the House of Commons to hold a full enquiry into the abuse of science that has allowed GE crops, not fit for human or animal consumption, to enter our food chain," says Claire Bleakley.

They are quoted as saying documents submitted to the regulatory bodies have shown up many flaws and revealed health impacts of the GM maize, described as "very disturbing" by scientists of the French commission for genetic engineering (CBG), including kidney malformations and increases in white blood cells in male rats and high blood sugar and reduced immature red blood cells in female rats. Phillipine villagers have had debilitating illnesses and blood tests have shown antibody reaction to GE maize grown
near their houses.

The data purporting to show the safety of GE foods needs to be reassessed by FSANZ for the safety of all Australasian citizens.

No food manufacturer or retailer should be allowing GE ingredients into its products, and existing approvals should be immediately suspended pending proper scientific testing.

Jon Carapiet 09 815 3370

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.a sp Monsanto to Realign Research Portfolio, Development of Roundup Ready Wheat Deferred Decision Follows Portfolio Review, Consultation with Growers

ST. LOUIS (May 10, 2004) - Monsanto announced today it is realigning research and development investments to accelerate the development of new and improved traits in corn, cotton, and oilseeds. As part of this realignment, the company is deferring all further efforts to introduce Roundup Ready wheat, until such time that other wheat biotechnology traits are introduced.

 This decision was reached after a comprehensive review of Monsanto's research investment portfolio and extensive consultation with customers in the wheat industry. 
"As a result of our portfolio review and dialogue with wheat industry leaders, we recognize the business opportunities with Roundup Ready spring wheat are less attractive relative to Monsanto's other commercial priorities," said Carl Casale, executive vice president of Monsanto. "Acreage planted in the spring wheat market in the United States and Canada has declined nearly 25 percent since 1997, and even more in the higher cost weed control target market for this product. 
This technology adds value for only a segment of spring wheat growers, resulting in a lack of widespread wheat industry alignment, unlike the alignment we see in other crops where biotechnology is broadly applied. These factors underscore the difficulty of bringing new technologies to the wheat market at this time.

"We will continue to monitor the wheat industry's desire for crop improvements, via breeding and biotechnology, to determine if and when it might be practical to move forward with a biotech wheat product," Casale said. "This decision allows us to defer commercial development of Roundup Ready wheat, in order to align with the potential commercialisation of other biotechnology traits in wheat, estimated to be four to eight years in the future."

Shifting resources away from Roundup Ready wheat enables Monsanto to increase its research emphasis on stress tolerance and several improved health profile vegetable oil traits. Overall, Monsanto's biotechnology research and development focuses on providing new solutions in the areas of yield improvement and stress tolerance, agronomic pest resistance traits, and food and feed improvement traits.

"We have pipeline products like Roundup Ready Flex for cotton and an improved soybean oil for food manufacturers from our conventional breeding program that are moving close to commercialisation," said Casale. "We also saw good results in our field trials for drought tolerant corn in 2003, and we will be expanding our field trials in 2004.

"Wheat growers are already experiencing the benefits of biotech, but in other crops such as corn, soy, and canola, which are increasingly being grown on acreage formerly devoted to wheat," according to Casale. "Growers will continue to benefit as we bring traits such as cold stress and drought tolerance to the marketplace."

Monsanto began the technical development stage of Roundup Ready wheat in 1997. Six years of field testing by Monsanto scientists and academic researchers demonstrate that Roundup Ready wheat performs exceptionally well under the most difficult production environments for spring-planted wheat and offers the potential to increase yields by 5 percent to 15 percent.

Monsanto will discontinue breeding and field level research of Roundup Ready wheat. The company will be working with regulators around the world to take appropriate next steps with regard to regulatory submissions.

Monsanto's investment in wheat in fiscal year 2004 has been less than $5 million, or less than one percent of the company's $500 million research and development budget. Funds budgeted for wheat will be redeployed to other research and development efforts. The company announced on May 4, 2004, that it is increasing its fiscal year 2004 earnings per share (EPS) guidance, now expected to be in the range of $1.55 on an ongoing basis for the 2004 fiscal year. Even with this decision, the company is maintaining its reported and ongoing earnings per share guidance for fiscal year 2004, and its projected 10 percent compounded annual growth rate for earnings per share on an ongoing basis for 2005 and 2006.

Monsanto Company is a leading global provider of technology-based solutions and agricultural products that improve farm productivity and food quality. For more information on Monsanto, see:

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