1.US food sector wary of GMO wheat - Gen Mills exec
2.Ban Is Slapped on Rice Imports

GM WATCH COMMENT: The General Mills' exec quoted in this article says GM wheat might be marketable to consumers if the biotech industry could come up with nutritionally enhanced wheat. Ironically, only last week researchers at University of California at Davis reported developing a wheat variety that contains high levels of protein, iron, and zinc, and GM is not involved.

EXTRACT: "The food market is not ready for that. Our stock would get killed." - Ron Olson, General Mills' vice president of grain operations

1.US food sector wary of GMO wheat - Gen Mills exec
By Carey Gillam Reuters, December 4 2006

KANSAS CITY, Mo., Dec 4 (Reuters) - The U.S. food industry is still not ready to embrace biotech wheat because of consumer wariness of genetic tinkering -- even though wheat acres are declining, a General Mills Inc. executive said on Monday.

"We're going to continue to lose acres," Ron Olson, General Mills' vice president of grain operations, told Reuters in an interview.

"But the food industry is going to pay whatever it takes (for wheat)," he said before giving a presentation to the National Grain and Feed country elevator conference in Kansas City.

Olson said spring wheat imports from Canada would likely continue to grow because of U.S. acreage declines.

Still, Olson said years of work by biotech companies like St. Louis-based Monsanto Co. and the Swiss agrochemicals group Syngenta to make wheat production more attractive to farmers was facing too much consumer wariness for food companies to embrace the efforts.

"The food market is not ready for that," he said. "Our stock would get killed."

Monsanto shelved its development of herbicide-tolerant wheat in 2004. Syngenta has quietly been pursuing a genetically modified, disease-resistant spring wheat, but said earlier this year that it would not proceed with its biotech wheat project without the support of major food companies.

Olson said biotech agronomic traits like Syngenta's need to come second to traits that enhance nutrition or offer some other consumer appeal in order to overcome market opposition.

Currently there are no transgenic wheat varieties planted commercially anywhere in the world. But U.S. wheat farmers have been increasingly vocal in asking for technological advancements to help them grow wheat more profitably.

2.Ban Is Slapped on Rice Imports
By Simon Shuster
The Moscow Times (Page 1), December 5 2006

The Agriculture Ministry's food safety watchdog banned all rice imports Monday and said they would not resume until a tighter inspection system was established next year.

Lovers of plov and sushi have no reason to worry for at least a month. One month's supply of imported rice is in warehouses after imports inexplicably doubled in the weeks before the ban.

Greenpeace Russia, which had sought tougher inspections, suggested that the ban was an attempt to help domestic growers, which meet about half of the country's demand for rice.

The Federal Service for Veterinarian and Vegetation Sanitary Supervision insisted that the threat was real and said about 2,000 tons of tainted rice had been destroyed at the border this year.

"We discovered a huge amount of rice this year that was of unacceptable quality," agency spokesman Alexei Alexeyenko said. "We saw pests in the rice, rice with mold. We also saw a lot of pesticides being used."

Shipments found to contain a genetically modified strain called LL Rice 601, which was banned by the European Union on Sept. 5, also contributed to the restriction, he said.

By Dec. 20, the Federal Customs Service will determine all the points at which rice enters the country. Strict new inspection stations will be set up at these points, and only then will rice import licenses be issued again, Alexeyenko said.

He said the process could take several months.

Suppliers can meet domestic demand for one month without imports, said Dmitry Rylko, general director of the Institute for Agricultural Market Studies.

The one-month supply is not normally on hand, but it is available now because importers have been stockpiling rice for the past four weeks. Instead of the usual 8,000 tons per week, imports doubled to 15,000 tons per week a month before Monday's announcement of the ban.

Alexeyenko said he did not know how this happened, and Rylko said "this is probably a coincidence."

In St. Petersburg ports, about 80 tons of rice have been put under quarantine. Alexeyenko could not say to whom the seized rice belonged, but said that it had come through Europe "from many countries."

Amish Chandra, the spokesman for the Indian Embassy in Moscow, said authorities had not notified the embassy about the ban and asked a reporter to call back. Later on Monday, he said he had contacted port authorities and received "a categorical denial from Russian customs in St. Petersburg" that the seized rice was Indian. India is one of Russia's main suppliers of rice.

The Vietnamese Embassy was unaware of the ban.

An embargo on U.S. rice has been in place since Sept. 29, after Greenpeace complained that U.S. inspection standards were too lax.

Greenpeace also called for a suspension of Chinese rice imports, citing fears that they contained allergens and "as-yet undiscovered forms of disease," Greenpeace Russia spokeswoman Natalya Oliferenko said.

Greenpeace, however, has never advocated a blanket ban on rice imports. "India, Thailand and Vietnam have all established very strict measures and inspections to prevent suspect forms of rice," Oliferenko said.

Greenpeace began advocating stricter inspections of rice in September. It took less than one month for the government to respond with the ban on U.S. rice and about two months for the universal ban to be imposed. Oliferenko could not recall a time when the government had so quickly responded to any of Greenpeace's suggestions. "That is, of course, strange," she said.

Oliferenko said the ban might have been prompted less by environmental concerns and more by a desire to boost domestic agriculture.

Timur Butov, general director of Russia's biggest rice producer, Razgulay, said in an e-mailed statement that "the main thing is that Russian consumers and producers [of rice] have a lot to gain from these limitations."

He said his company's new dominance over the Russian rice market would not lead to exorbitant prices. "Up to this moment, wholesale prices were 'very low,' and they will now stabilize at a 'low' level," the statement said.

Razgulay's stock rose 2.3 percent to $3.99 on the RTS stock exchange Monday.

Russia has been accused of introducing import restrictions to gain political leverage. Georgia faced a ban on wine, its primary export, as its relations with Russia deteriorated last spring. A ban on U.S. meat was a major sticking point in negotiations to win Washington's blessing for Russia's entry into the World Trade Organization. A ban is also in place for meat from Poland, which has had rocky relations with Russia since it backed West-leaning politician Viktor Yushchenko in Ukraine's Orange Revolution in 2004.

Health risks were the pretext of all these cases, but the ban on rice is unique in being globally applied.

Russia consumes 650,000 tons of rice per year, 350,000 tons of which were imported in 2006. The main providers of rice are China, Pakistan, India, Taiwan, Spain, Uruguay, Vietnam and Thailand.