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Wheat

Market Status

There is no genetically modified (GM, also called genetically engineered) wheat approved, grown or eaten anywhere in the world. It has never been sold on the market. (The Canadian government lists six wheat herbicide-tolerant wheat varieties as approved “Plants with Novel Traits” but these are not the product of genetic engineering, these wheat varieties were created using chemically induced seed mutagenesis.)

Update – June 2019: The U.S. Department of Agriculture is investigating an incident of unapproved GM glyphoste-tolerant wheat plants growing in Washington State. This is the fourth such escape incident with illegal GM wheat in the US, and the fifth in North America. Click here for the summary of escape incidents in North America.

Take Action

Support the National Farmers’ Union call to ban on outdoor testing of GM crops: Send your instant letter now.

The exact locations of experimental GM crop field trials are not disclosed in Canada (nor in the US). In Canada, the government discloses how many open-air trials are conducted in each province per year and identifies the crop type, the GM trait(s), and the name of the company running the test. In 2018, there were 12 field tests of GM wheat in Manitoba, and 40 in Saskatchewan.

Escape Incidents

 

There have been four escape incidents with unapproved GM wheat in the U.S (discovered in 2019, 2016, 2014 and 2013) and one in Canada (2018). Click her for the list of incidents.

June 2019: GM Wheat Discovered in the U.S.

In the fourth incident in the US since 2013, the U.S. Department of Agriculture has reported unapproved GM glyphoste-tolerant wheat plants growing in Washington State.

June 2018: GM Wheat Discovered in Canada

On June 14, the Canadian government announced a contamination incident with unapproved genetically modified (GM, also called genetically engineered) wheat. Several GM wheat plants were found on a road in Alberta in an isolated contamination case and the government does not know how they got there. No GM wheat was ever approved for growing or eating in Canada, but the GM trait found growing in Alberta was field tested from 1998-2000.Report Cover

For details on the cases of GMO escape and contamination in Canada, see CBAN’s Report “GM Contamination in Canada: The failure to contain living modified organisms – incidents and impacts”

Resources on Canadian Escape Incident, 2018

 

Past Developments

Summary History: In 2004, Monsanto withdrew requests for government approval of its herbicide tolerant GM wheat in Canada and the US because of widespread farmer and consumer protest in both countries, and around the world. However, Monsanto (now Bayer) re-launched research into GM wheat in 2009 and the biotechnology industry engaged in a new public relations campaign to create a climate favorable to the introduction of GM wheat. In the meantime, there have been five escape incidents with illegal, unapproved GM wheat plants in North America. In 2010, the Canadian Biotechnology Action Network coordinated a global effort that resulted in 233 groups from 26 countries restating their opposition to GM wheat.

February 2012: Canadian farmers spoke in communities across Australia. Australians want to know why Canadian farmers, processors and citizens, worked so hard to keep out GM wheat. “As a young farmer, only recently returned to the farm, I have no desire to grow GE wheat, nor do I want my neighbors to grow it. Pollen flow, spillage and the many points where contamination can take place would make it impossible for me to grow GE free wheat. On every level it is a bad idea.” stated Matt Gehl, 27, who farms over 1600 hectares in Canada.

February 2012: “Genetically modified (GM) wheat … is still widely regarded as not acceptable for the foreseeable future.” stated the Grain Growers Ltd, leading industry body for the Australian grains industry. From the February 2012 report titled “What the World Wants from Australian Wheat” – an analysis of industry surveys and interviews with flour and stock feed manufacturers in Australia, South East Asia, North Asia, the Middle East and Europe. Over 80% of Australia’s export market (in value) will not buy GM wheat now, for the next five years, or in the foreseeable future.

April 7, 2011: Canada’s National Research Council Disavows GM Wheat. The National Research Council of Canada (NRC) issued a statement to clarify that it has no plans to research genetically modified (GM) wheat. NRC now states: “GM wheat is not an objective of the NRC wheat program. We will be developing a number of tools that will be used to reduce the breeding cycle, increase yield and adapt to climate stresses. GM varieties are not contemplated at this time.” The statement was issued to CBAN in response to media stories of April 3 that reported on a leaked memo from the government research agency. “NRC has finally recognized what everyone but Monsanto understands: that GM wheat is unacceptable to farmers and consumers,” said Lucy Sharratt of the Canadian Biotechnology Action Network.

July 2011: Australia’s top scientific body, CSIRO, is conducting the world’s first human feeding trials of GM wheat. Scientists have already denounced the trials: “The feeding trials should not be conducted until long-term impact assessments have been undertaken and appropriate information released to enable the scientific community to determine the value of such research, as against the risks.” A Greenpeace report, Australia’s Wheat Scandal, detailed a major conflict of interest at CSIRO.

July 2010: Monsanto and BASF Plant Science are expanding joint research to develop GM wheat. They say they aim to commercialize a GM wheat in at least 10 years. The companies say they plan to “initially focus on developing biotech products for the North American and Australian markets.” The joint announcement comes on the heels of a separate plan announced by Syngenta and the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center in April to work toward biotech wheat

Farmer Rejection in Canada

  • 69% of farmers are opposed to the introduction of GM wheat “at this time” according to a 2009 survey conducted by the Canadian Wheat Board.
  • 83% of Canadian farmers disagreed that Roundup Ready wheat should be introduced according to a study started in 2004 and published in a peer reviewed article March 2009. Overall, the farmers ranked the risks of market loss, corporate control of the food supply, agronomic impact and contamination of non-GM crops much higher than any anticipated production benefits. The study: “Farmer knowledge and a priori risk analysis: pre-release evaluation of genetically modified Roundup Ready wheat across the Canadian prairies”, Ian J. Mauro & Stéphane M. McLachlan & Rene C. Van Acker, 20 March 2009, Environmental Science and Pollution Research.

GM Wheat Rejected Globally

233 Farmer and Consumer Groups from 26 Countries

A rejection statement was organized by CBAN in response to a 2009 pledge from industry groups in Canada, Australia and the US to “work toward the goal of synchronized commercialization of biotech traits in our wheat crops.” The statement reads:

“In light of our existing experience with genetic engineering, and recognizing the global consumer rejection of genetically engineered wheat, we restate our definitive opposition to GE wheat and our commitment to stopping the commercialization of GE traits in our wheat crops” 

Slovak Translation! Definitívne Globálny odmietnutie geneticky modifikované pšenica