RS21620 - Status of Genetically Engineered Wheat in North America
4-Nov-2004; Gwenell L. Waters Bass; 6 p.
Update: March 18, 2005
Genetically engineered (GE) wheat varieties developed by the biotech industry and
university researchers hold considerable promise for producers. GE wheat developed
by chemical company Monsanto is engineered to resist damage from the widely used
Roundup Ready (RR) herbicide, making it easier for farmers to control weeds. The
development of GE wheat raises issues of market acceptance and agronomic
management. Market acceptance of GE wheat focuses on its direct acceptance by
consumers, either segregated or when co-mingled with non-GE or conventional wheat.
Most research suggests GE foods are safe to eat; however, uncertainty about health and
environmental effects has led to public opposition particularly in Europe and Japan.
This is of great concern to U.S. wheat producers because the United States exports more
than half of its wheat production. Producers are concerned as to whether or not a
segregation system can be designed which ensures that no co-mingling between GE and
non-GE wheat will occur. Agronomic management issues include the effect of GE
wheat on crop management practices and profitability, issues of contamination and
spread, the development of pesticide resistance, and the cost and management of
volunteer plants. While developers of the technologies are seeking regulatory approval,
they indicate that they will postpone their commercialization until market acceptance is
assured and systems for separating GE and non-GE wheat are in place. In May 2004,
Monsanto announced that it was deferring efforts to introduce GE wheat until such time
that other wheat biotechnology traits are introduced. This report will be updated as
Topics: Agriculture, Economics & Trade