Wheat growers hopeful for GM technology

The effort to move forward with biotech wheat varieties continues to be a priority issue for the National Association of Wheat Growers (NAWG).

“We need innovation and genetic modification (GM) technology in wheat. In 1992, wheat was the No. 1 U.S. crop by acreage. We have gone from No. 1 to No. 3 since then. We can’t attribute all of that to the lack of innovation with genetically modified crops, but it is certainly a factor,” said Gordon Stoner, vice president of NAWG. “We are still hearing 5 to 10 years on biotech wheat and I have been hearing about 5 to 10 years for 15 years now. One of our tech providers is working on Bt wheat that would help us manage the sawfly. In Montana alone, losses from sawfly are in excess of $1 million. And, there is also GM wheat with significant head scab resistance. It is sitting on a shelf today.”

Looking forward to the release of biotech wheat varieties, NAWG is being proactive with the world’s wheat growers.

“Canada, Australia and the United States signed a trilateral agreement to come together and agree that when GM wheat comes forth it will be released simultaneously in these three major export countries,” Stoner said. “This was renewed in 2014 with 19 national organizations. Argentina has expressed an interest in joining the agreement as well.”

In addition, the wheat industry hopes to have the necessary regulations and food safety precautions in place prior to any GM wheat release.

“We need to have tolerances for GM wheat in the food chain because when we have multiple streams there will be no way to maintain 100% integrity,” he said. “We have to agree at some level of tolerance for this.”

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