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Industry groups agree with deferral of biotech wheat

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Monsanto says it will defer development of its Roundup Ready trait in wheat until other biotechnology traits are in the marketplace. While expressing support for biotechnology applications in wheat, the three national wheat organizations commended Monsanto for its decision.

“We understand and respect Monsanto’s decision to defer development,” said Alan Lee, chairman of U.S. Wheat Associates. “While we believe that biotechnology has a definite place in the future of wheat production, the market is not yet ready for the introduction of this new technology. This deferral should reassure our customers that we’re not rushing to market prematurely, and it gives us more time to do the advance work that will be necessary for the eventual commercialization of biotechnology.”

“Technology has been a central part of U.S. wheat production for many years,” said Mark Gage, president of the National Association of Wheat Growers. “Wheat production and the quality of our product have steadily improved because of technology adoption, and we view biotechnology as the next tool in the toolbox. Monsanto’s deferral does not halt biotechnology development; Roundup Ready wheat is ‘on the shelf’, and there are other traits coming forward that will find their place in 21st century wheat production.”

“Monsanto has been very open with us in dialogue; they’ve asked frank questions and we’ve had many candid discussions,” said Bruce Hamnes, chairman of the Wheat Export Trade Education Committee. “This decision demonstrates that we’re taking a very thoughtful approach to commercialization, and also illustrates that the pledges and milestones Monsanto set out were sincere.”

Carl Casale, executive vice president of Monsanto, said that the company will continue to monitor the wheat industry’s desire for crop improvements, via breeding and biotechnology, to determine if and when it might be practical to move forward with a biotech wheat product.

“This decision allows us to defer commercial development of Roundup Ready wheat, in order to align with the potential commercialization of other biotechnology traits in wheat, estimated to be four to eight years in the future,” Casale said.

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