GM wheat: $7.5 billion trade at risk

News Media Release, March 5, 2013

Australia may be the first country to approve commercial genetically manipulated (GM) wheat though the major grain companies the Alliance surveyed do not want to buy it, a new report finds. WA’s Coalition Government sold Monsanto 19.9% of public wheat breeder Intergrain with a focus on GM wheat research, putting wheat exports at risk.

“A new report 'No Appetite for Australian GM wheat' finds major wheat buyers in Australia, Indonesia, Italy, Japan and Malaysia will not buy GM wheat and our markets worth $7.5 billion would be at risk,” says FOODwatch spokesperson Janet Grogan.

“80% of wheat is exported and markets for the Australian harvest worth $7.5 billion in 2011-12 would be negatively affected by growing GM wheat.

“The GM-Free Australia Alliance surveyed major pasta, noodle, flour and biscuit companies to discover what the world really wants from Australian wheat.

“We found twenty-five major companies including Barilla, Bakers Delight, Coles, Sanitarium and General Mills say they will not use GM wheat, or that they have general GM-free policies.

“The company responses in our report clearly show that present markets for Australian wheat would be at risk of long-term negative impacts if GM wheat were grown here.

“These results resonate with a 2011 Grain Growers Ltd finding that Australia's key export markets, plus domestic and feed millers, would not buy GM wheat for the foreseeable future as they anticipate their customers would reject GM wheat products.

“Australian Governments backing GM wheat research have ignored the high costs and failures of commercial GM crop segregation, and the strong negative attitudes of domestic and export wheat buyers to GM wheat and GM contamination,” says Ms Grogan.

“But CSIRO, U of Adelaide and Victorian DPI have field trialed GM wheat in WA, NSW, SA, Vic and ACT and claim the crop may be commercial by 2015.

“The USA and Canada both rejected GM wheat years ago, over expected market rejection and inevitable contamination that would also affect conventional and organic wheat farmers.

“GM wheat contamination can occur at any point from seed to spoon via cross-pollination, spillage, supply chain contamination, illegal planting or failures of segregation.

“The world wants Australian wheat to stay GM free and we should supply what our buyers want or suffer the disastrous economic consequences,” Ms Grogan concludes.

More comment: Janet Grogan 0420 820 713 [email protected]; Bob Phelps 0449 769 066 * GM-Free Alliance members: Gene Ethics; MADGE; FOODwatch; SAGFIN; NCF; SFF.