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Growing Resistance: Canadian Farmers and the Politics of Genetically Modified Wheat
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A Canadian family farmers group has launched a nationwide anti-GM tour and is calling for a boycott of Monsanto's Roundup herbicide.
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The effort was sparked by what farmers allege is broken promise by Monsanto Canada to respect opposition to the introduction of GM wheat into Canada. On December 23rd, while attention was focused on the holidays, Monsanto applied to move ahead with regulatory approval for GM wheat, one of the final steps before bringing the product to market.
A Monsanto Canada spokesperson denied any connection between their efforts to gain approval, and bringing the products to market. Jordan explained that the company is only concerned with "assuring that western Canadian farmers have unrestricted access to innovative new technologies that will allow them to remain competitive. That environment is, to put it mildly, overwhelmingly opposed to GM wheat. Our customers are telling us they don't want to buy GM wheat the market is telling us they don't want it, and we certainly haven't seen evidence that people want it. The crop in question, western red spring wheat, is typically used to make flour, bread, cereals and crackers.
As it has already done with other crops such as corn and canola, Monsanto has genetically engineered their wheat to be able to withstand application of their powerful Roundup herbicide, or glyphosate, hence the name "Roundup Ready" wheat. During the NFU tour over the next few weeks, Farmers' Union President David Wells will be reminding farmers they can send a message just by choosing another brand of glyphosate.
While acknowledging there are some valid concerns, Monsanto's Jordan says organic and conventional farmers can happily coexist side by side. Not so, says the NFU's Qualman. He argues that GM crops won't stay "down on the farm," either in the fields or when being shipped. Well it did. Organic Farmers filed a class action suit filed last fall arguing that the introduction of GM wheat would eventually lead to widespread contamination of their fields, and loss of market share. Such concerns have precedent.
Canadian farmers opposed to GM wheat: survey - Reuters
Genetic contamination of organic canola crops by Monsanto's Roundup Ready Canola and Aventis's Liberty Link genetically modified canola was widespread, in spite of vigorous containment efforts, according to a study released last year by Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada. Wheat generates some 30 billion seeds per acre, which can then be distributed by wind, insects, water, equipment, and a number of other methods.
Seeds may lie dormant for years before germinating. Monsanto spokesperson Jordan agrees, up to a point. As a company, we recognize there's a lot of work to be done in some of these areas.
To split apart a massive, centralized systems with thousands of input points, like the Canadian grain system, would carry enormous costs. If crop segregation were to fail, it could have devastating consequences.