Biotech Wheat Coalition is Formed to Push the Need For Biotech Wheat

Canadian, Australian and American wheat organizations have formed the Biotech Wheat Coalition “in support for more efficient, sustainable and profitable production of wheat around the world”. See the Joint Statment Here

As RealAgriculture.com has discussed before the need for biotech wheat is rising and the usual roadblocks are presenting themselves as discussed by the Canadian Wheat Board in a Reuters Story on May 15th.
  • Wheat Board wants assurance of market acceptance
  • GM wheat seen unpopular with many overseas customers
  • Must be assurances that the GM wheat could be segregated from the non-GM wheat.

Biotech is the avenue for pull type traits to become a reality in wheat. I take issue with Mr. Klassen’s comments in the Reuters piece as he explains that producers have made production adjustments on their farm production practices and conventional breeding has proven to provide some of the same benefits to farmers as biotech wheat would. How does this apply to things like fusarium prevention, improved food taste, nitrogen use efficiency and drought tolerance?

In reaction to the wheat boards usual joust that we have no way of segregating the conventional varieties and biotech varieties, I say that maybe we should start building a grain handling system that promotes new markets and identity preserved variety systems instead of forcing farmers to produce a homogeneous product against lower cost rivals in South America. Somehow in Canada farmers produce non-GM and GM canola and accomplish segregation. Why could this not work in wheat as well? Please remember that trait development is no longer just about production traits but pull type traits that will directly benefit consumers, which in my opinion will lead to the global acceptance of GMO’s.

As stated in the Canadian Press Release—The application of biotechnology in wheat research could lead to the development of several traits to improve wheat yields and wheat quality.  Traits to improve yields could include those that deal with environmental factors (e.g. drought, cold tolerance), combat weed or insect infestations (e.g. midge, sawfly), improve disease resistance (e.g. fusarium, rust) or improve the wheat plant€™s utilization of nutrients.   Traits to improve the quality attributes of wheat could include those that are designed to accommodate consumers with food allergies, reduce obesity, or improve the nutritional profile of wheat-based foods.

If anything, it is at least time that we reinvigorate the discussion around biotech wheat and not fall into the same roadblocks and instead begin working towards solutions for those roadblocks.  Lets talk to our overseas buyers and discuss the benefits biotech wheat could provide.  For example, ask 10 bakers if they would like a grain that would extend the life of a loaf of bread by 2 days.  What would the net impact be on a hog farm that could buy fusarium free wheat to feed to their hogs.  Or maybe ask a pasta maker, would he like a durum that would produce ultra low cadmium levels or improve the production process by a significant amount.  

One thing proven this past week is that this nonsense that farmers do not accept GM crops but instead they are pushed on them by large multi nationals is ridiculous based on the resounding collective voice heard throughout the world by wheat growers in forming this biotech wheat coalition.

 

Shaun Haney

Shaun grew up on a family seed farm in Southern Alberta. Haney Farms produces, conditions and retails wheat, barley, canola and corn seed. Shaun Haney is the founder of RealAgriculture.com. @shaunhaney

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