Monday, September 19, 2011
No Market for Genetically Modified Wheat, CWB Says
By Stefania Moretti
September 19, 2011
Canadians needn’t worry about genetically modified bread winding up on their kitchen table any time soon despite the global push to start experimenting with genetically altered wheat to feed the world’s growing population.
Canadian wheat farmers aren’t pushing for GM wheat because there simple is no market for it, the marketing group in charge of one Canada’s top exports said just days after the British government approved trials on GM wheat starting next year.
From a competitive standpoint, the Canadian Wheat Board isn’t too concerned about the U.K.’s decision to test pest-resistant wheat either, said Maureen Fitzhenry, a spokesperson for the CWB.
That’s because the competitive advantage comes from selling what buyers want, she said. And in today’s market, that’s non-genetically modified wheat.
“In the current climate there’s an argument to be made that the people who aren’t testing genetically modified wheat may be further ahead in the game,” Fitzhenry said.
GM wheat isn’t being grown anywhere in North America - though Canada did sign on to the G20’s International Research Initiative for Wheat Improvement (IRIWI) just last week along with France, Britain and eight others.
“We know that by 2050 we will need to raise wheat output by 70% to meet people’s needs. So there is an urgency to improve genetic progress,” said Nicolas Trift, scientific advisor to French Agriculture Minister Bruno Le Maire.
Despite increasing global food supply concerns some of the world’s top consumers, including Japan and the European union, still have very strong objections to GM products - especially food staples - Fitzhenry said.
“There are some customers who don’t even want one kernel of GM grain in a boatload which may be an unrealistic expectation as we move forward into an era where there are more GM products maybe not of wheat but of other types of grain that are travelling in the same ships,” Fitzhenry said.
“We do recognize that GM wheat may have the potential to offer benefits to farmers and to buyers who are looking for food security as the number of people in the world continues to grow,” she said, adding that crop seed companies, at least so far, have not been able to convince producers of that.