USA: September 10, 2003
WASHINGTON – The premier export market for American wheat could be
destroyed if the United States approved production of a genetically
modified variety of the commodity, a Japanese industry official said this
“If there is GM (genetically-modified) wheat, there is some potential for
the collapse of the U.S. wheat market in Japan,” said Tsutomu Shigeta,
executive director of Japan’s Flour Millers Association.
In the year that ended March 31, Japan bought nearly 2.5 million tonnes of
U.S. wheat, slightly more than half of its import needs, according to the
U.S. Wheat Associates, which promotes sales of American wheat abroad.
St. Louis-based Monsanto Co. MON.N has asked the U.S. and Canadian
governments to approve a herbicide-tolerant biotech wheat hybrid. The
company has estimated it could be at least two years before the first
biotech wheat might be ready for market. American wheat farmers are deeply
split over the idea.
Members of the Japanese Flour Millers Association are beginning a week-long
visit to the United States to meet with federal regulators and to assess
the quality of the U.S. wheat crop in North Dakota and Oregon. The group
accounts for about 90 percent of the wheat milled in Japan.
Speaking through an interpreter, Shigeta told reporters that his
association’s opposition to biotech wheat is a “business matter” and is not
based on an assessment of its safety.
In this case, the association’s concern is widespread consumer opposition
to biotech wheat.
Shigeta referred to a Japanese government-sponsored survey conducted a few
months ago, which he said showed that almost 68 percent of consumers
opposed a biotech variety of wheat.
In an attempt to soften opposition, Monsanto has begun meeting with food
processors in Japan and Europe, a company official said recently.
In May, a group of South Korean wheat millers visited the United States and
delivered a similar message in opposition to genetically modified wheat.
From Reuters by way of IGNJ