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Corn+Soybean Digest

Biotech Could Boost Wheat Supply

Biotechnology could potentially help reverse the loss of wheat acres in the U.S. and help ensure there will be adequate supplies to feed a hungry world. That’s the conclusion of a new wheat industry analysis.

The analysis outlines the competitiveness problem facing global wheat production and why it matters for the entire food chain. That includes growers, wheat users at home and abroad, consumers in the first and third worlds and the wheat industry itself, which is increasingly vulnerable to short-term supply shocks and a long-term cycle of decline.

Organizations collaborating on the paper included the National Association of Wheat Growers (NAWG), U.S. Wheat Associates, the North American Millers’ Association, the Independent Bakers Association and the Wheat Foods Council.

The analysis emphasizes that there is no silver bullet to the competitiveness problem. However, it concludes that the rapid adoption of biotechnology traits in other crops produced around the world and grower testimonials in support of these traits, lends credence to the idea that biotechnology can make a significant contribution.

The authors also devote significant space to their commitment to choice for consumers who wish to procure non-biotech wheat and wheat products and producers who choose to meet this demand. Globally, more than 2 billion acres of biotech crops have been safely grown, though there is no commercial production of biotech wheat anywhere in the world.

Wheat acres have been declining in the U.S. for three decades, and yield growth and net returns/acre for wheat have consistently lagged behind corn and soybeans over the past decade. The industry first sought to formally address this problem in a 2006 paper, Addressing the Competitiveness Crisis in Wheat, and a series of Wheat Summit meetings that followed.

Many industry organizations are now supporting a goal of NAWG to increase national average wheat yields 20% by 2018 through work on biotechnology and non-biotechnology efforts.

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