Ten years ago, the Sustainability Council reported on market resistance to Monsanto’s GM herbicide resistant wheat. At that time, North America had embraced GM commodity crops (soy, maize and canola) and was already the largest GM crop producing region.
The negative reception to GM wheat by North American wheat growers came, therefore, as a surprise to Monsanto. However, at the time, GM crops had not entered into direct human foods at the time, but were confined to animal feed and unlabelled, highly processed ingredients such as oils. So when major buyers in Europe and Asia emphatically stated that they would source wheat from other countries if GM production began, the Canadian and US wheat growers took industry-wide stands to protect their crop’s GM Free status.
Unable to persuade North American growers to support the GM wheat’s introduction, Monsanto abandoned its commercialisation plans in 2005. But last month – seven years later and well after field trials had ended – it resurfaced, when GM wheat plants were found growing on an Oregon farm.
The story is still unfolding. The GM strain has not yet been found in wheat consignments. Yet markets have already reacted strongly. Strikingly, that reaction is almost identical to the response in 2003 when Monsanto first sought – by deliberate release rather than accident – to get its wheat into North American fields. Indeed, little has changed in the intervening decade. GM crop production continues with rare exceptions to service animal feed markets and only to be present in foods for direct human consumption if no labelling is required. And markets continue to resist even trace contamination.
Amongst the coverage thus far:
New York Times