Saturday, February 25, 2012

GM wheat

GM wheat ‘waste of time’
By Gregor Heard
Stock Journal
February 25, 2012

CANADIAN farmer Peter Eggers believes continued research into genetically modified (GM) wheat is a waste of time.

“There’s not a market in the world that has said it will accept GM wheat, so why are we wasting all this money?”

His compatriot Matt Gehl said the push towards GM reflected the desires of the seed companies rather than the growers.

“They are looking for things they can patent and make a profit from.”

Mr Gehl was concerned the recent swing back into GM wheat research would come at the expense of breeding conventional wheat varieties, and that there was too much reliance on the private breeding sector - which could then set the breeding agenda.

“It’s an old argument, but I’d love to see stronger public breeding sectors.

“I feel it has been a case of governments finding the easy areas to cut during the recent economic downturn, and unfortunately plant breeding is one of those areas, especially when you can point to private breeders and say they are doing the job.”

Mr Eggers wanted agriculture to learn from the mistakes of GM canola.

“It might be a bit late on the GM canola front, but I want to make sure we don’t go down the path of GM wheat.

“There is no trait in there that makes an irresistible case for growing GM wheat, the only traits which we have seen so far has been for herbicide resistance - the other ones such as drought or salt tolerance have not come to fruition.

“Even if they did, the heart of the matter is that people don’t want to eat GM wheat - marketers have found a home for GM canola, but there are clear signals they don’t want GM wheat.”

Mr Gehl said he wanted more work done using sophisticated conventional breeding techniques, even including RNAi interference and marker assistance, which have been labeled as genetic modification by some.

“So long as we are not seeing material spliced into plants that isn’t meant to be there, I am happy enough with marker assistance.”

He also said he wanted more testing done on the potential safety of GM wheat.

“We haven’t got any categorical evidence to suggest it is safe.

“I am a food producer, and I want to be providing something that is safe and healthy to consumers.”

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