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Wheat board and Monsanto duel over GM wheat

Canadian wheat is prized for its baking qualities and used worldwide to make everything from breads to noodles to pasta. The Canadian Wheat Board wants to keep it that way, which is why it wants to stop Monsanto's genetically modified Roundup Ready Wheat from being introduced in Canada. "It has the potential to virtually destroy the $3.5-billion industry in Western Canada," says Ian McCreary, a farmer and a director with the Canadian Wheat Board.

McCreary is fighting Monsanto's Roundup Ready wheat because key buyers, including Japan, England, Germany and France, have said they will shop elsewhere if farmers can't guarantee that Canadian wheat is 100 per cent GM-free. Since it's nearly impossible to distinguish GM wheat from conventional wheat, farmers are concerned about the contamination that could take place from neighbouring farms if the Canadian government approves Roundup Ready wheat. 
• In 2004, The department of Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada announced it would stop the development of genetically modified Roundup Ready wheat, despite an investment of $500,000 and seven years of work.

• Monsanto's Roundup Ready crops currently on the market include corn, canola and soybean. They are deemed superior to conventional crops because they have been genetically modified for better weed control and better yields. Monsanto's Roundup pesticide will kill insects and weeds while leaving the Roundup Ready crops undamaged.
• Monsanto has become a target for anti-GM food forces because it has been the most aggressive in promoting its products, including Roundup Ready crops.

Monsanto, founded in 1901 in St. Louis, Mo., also has an image problem due to its chemical company legacy. Some of Monsanto's most notorious products include the now-banned, highly carcinogenic industrial coolant known as PCB; as well as Agent Orange, a toxic herbicide Americans sprayed to defoliate the rainforests of Vietnam. The chemical warfare deprived the enemy of food and of hiding places in the jungles, but Agent Orange also led to a host of health problems ranging from depression to severe birth defects.

• GM food available on the market has been put though more testing than any food in history. GM food is rigorously tested using guidelines issued by such groups as the World Health Organization, the Food and Agriculture Organization, the Organization for Economic Co-operations and Development, and Europe's Novel Foods Regulations.

• Nearly 40 per cent of the world's food crop is lost every year to insects, fungal diseases and spoilage that biotechnology could help prevent. Scientists also say GM crops are needed to meet the increasing food demand, especially in the developing world.
• Scientists and farmers in the developing world have lashed out at anti-GM food activists saying they "cannot afford to listen to pseudoscientific rhetoric." — Reader's Digest Canada, September 2000
Medium: Television
Program: The National
Broadcast Date: Oct. 13, 2003
Guest(s): Jim Bole, Ron DePauw, Michael Doane, Ian McCreary, Lyle Simonson, Rene Van Acker, Lyle Vanclief
Reporter: Dan Zakreski
Duration: 17:59

Last updated: March 21, 2012

Page consulted on March 28, 2012

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