by David Gutierrez
April 24, 2011
Monsanto has announced plans to
genetically modified (GM) wheat, in
spite of prior failures to gain acceptance for the technology.
GM food crops already on the market include corn, soy and sugar
beets. Monsanto attempted to introduce GM wheat in the early part of
the decade, but abandoned the effort in 2004 when international
buyers threatened to boycott U.S. wheat, prompting U.S. wheat
growers to reject the technology.
In the face of record high wheat prices sparked by climate-related
crop failures, Monsanto has launched plans to develop GM wheat
strains that are more drought- and stress-resistant and produce
higher yields, according to company executive Claire CaJacob.
Rival companies Syngenta and
BASF have also announced plans to engineer GM wheat varieties.
"I wouldn't say we're jumping in
with two feet," CaJacob said. "But I wouldn't say we're
tentative. We have traits that make more sense. It's the right
Monsanto researchers are still testing
genes and have yet to try engineering any new wheat varieties.
The company hopes to start field tests
within a year or two, CaJacob says, and it may be 10 years before it
can commercialize GM wheat. The company is also developing pricing
schemes and deciding whether to allow farmers to save GM wheat
seeds, CaJacob says.
To date, Monsanto has forbidden
farmers from saving the seeds of GM crops, a practice that has
drawn worldwide condemnation.
"Companies like Monsanto have
developed GMOs so that they could patent seeds, as selling
unpatentable seeds has not been particularly profitable," writes
Susan E. Schenck in her book
The Live Food Factor.
"Also, since GMO plants do not reproduce once the 'suicide' gene
has been inserted into their DNA, farmers must purchase new
seeds every year, resulting in a potential food monopoly akin to
the oil and banking cartels. This practice institutes a sneaky
form of monopoly that will only get worse and worse until a
small elite cartel controls our entire food supply."