CWB Asks Monsanto to Put the Brakes on Roundup Ready Wheat
by Julianne Johnston
The Canadian Wheat Board (CWB) has called on Monsanto Canada to withdraw its application for an environmental safety assessment of Roundup Ready? wheat (RRW). Monsanto's RRW application is currently before the Canadian Food Inspection Agency.
In a May 22, letter to Monsanto Canada's President, Peter Turner, the CWB detailed the "devastating economic impact" the introduction of RRW will have on western Canadian farmers. "Economic harm could include lost access to premium markets, penalties caused by rejected shipments, and increased farm management and grain handling costs," the letter states. The letter is signed by Ken Ritter, chairman, and Adrian Measner, President and CEO.
"Monsanto has said in the past it would not introduce RRW unless it was beneficial to farmers," Ritter said. "Well, there are no benefits. So we're asking Monsanto to put the interests of their customers, western Canadian farmers, ahead of their own commercial interests and put the brakes on RRW, before Prairie farmers suffer serious financial consequences."
"Customers in over 80 percent of our markets have expressed serious reservations about genetically modified wheat," Measner said. "For us, the customer is always right. We cannot jeopardize our ability to maximize returns to western Canadian farmers through the introduction of a product our customers do not want."
The CWB has asked Monsanto to confirm its compliance with the CWB's request by June 27, 2003. The CWB has already called on the federal government to close the regulatory gap on genetically modified wheat by adding a cost benefit analysis to the food, feed and environmental assessments currently being undertaken on RRW.
However, the CWB is taking this additional step because RRW could be approved before the introduction of any regulatory changes. "Under the current system, RRW could be approved for unconfined release as early as 2004," Ritter said. "We had to move quickly, so we are appealing to Monsanto directly."
A copy of the letter to Monsanto Canada is below.
Mr. Peter Turner
Monsanto Canada Inc
Dear Mr. Turner:
As you know, the potential release of Roundup Ready? wheat (RRW) remains the cause of considerable concern for wheat customers, farmers and others. The farmer-controlled Canadian Wheat Board (CWB) is extremely concerned that the unconfined release of RRW in Canada will result in significant and predictable economic harm to western Canadian farmers. This harm will occur to those who adopt the technology and those who do not, as well as to others in the Canadian wheat value chain.
Economic harm could include lost access to premium markets, penalties caused by rejected shipments, and increased farm management and grain handling costs. Unfortunately, scientific data demonstrating the food safety of RRW will not, by itself, prevent this harm. Furthermore, the CWB is not satisfied that Monsanto's stated commitments regarding commercialization of RRW will adequately protect the interests of western Canadian farmers and Canada's wheat customers from this economic harm.
The CWB hereby requests Monsanto withdraw its application to the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) for environmental safety assessment of RRW.
It is of the utmost importance that your decision on this request be made as soon as possible in order to protect the interests of the wheat value chain and to prevent the damages that may result from the unconfined release of RRW. We ask that you confirm by June 27, 2003 your withdrawal from the application process.
Original signed by
Chair, CWB Board of Directors
Original signed by
Adrian C. Measner
President and Chief Executive Officer
c: Hugh Grant, Executive Vice-President and Chief Operating Officer, Monsanto Company