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Stakeholder with interests in the risk and/or benefit assessment of Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO’s) are invited to take part in an online survey.

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Poll: US farmers for genetically modified wheat


(3 March 2009) A majority of farmers in the USA have expressed approval in a poll on genetically modified wheat. They expect gene technology to contribute towards solutions to current problems in wheat cultivation.

In conducting the survey, the National Association of Wheat Growers (NAWG) approached in writing 21,000 farmers with a wheat cultivation area of at least 200 hectares. A third of those addressed participated in the poll. The object of the survey was the opinion of farmers towards a petition that was formulated by the NAWG and contained essential statements towards genetically modified wheat. Three-quarters (76 per cent) of the participating farmers agreed with the petition.

In the case of wheat, American farmers perceive disadvantages in comparison with other types of farmed plants. Consequently, wheat cultivation in the USA has declined significantly in the last years while the production of maize has risen. Therefore, according to the petition, the possibilities of bio- and gene-technological procedures should also be applied to the breeding of wheat in order to raise yields, optimise cultivation and improve sustainability. Such characteristics could be enhanced in new GM wheat types, for example, that require less water and fertiliser, that are more resistant to disease and pests and that display heightened quality with regard to production and handling.

Five years ago, the Monsanto company abandoned plans for the market introduction of genetically modified wheat, since many farmers feared losses in wheat export to Europe and Asia. "Our farmers still have no interest in herbicide-resistant Roundup wheat," declared a spokesperson of the NAWG. However, farmers demand increased yield and wheat types that better withstand heat, dryness and cold. As stated by the NAWG, "Our poll is a strong signal that farmers are ready to plant genetically modified wheat."

However, such GM wheat types certainly are not yet market-ready. A spokesperson of the Swiss agro-concern Syngenta stated that GM wheat does not have the highest priority within the company: "With regard to GM wheat, we assume that a lack of consumer acceptance remains." However, within ten years one might expect that the advantages of GM wheat begin to be recognised.

 

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