New Study: The Commercial Introduction of Genetically Modified Wheat Would Severely Depress U.S. Wheat Industry

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Thursday, October 30, 2003

BILLINGS - A new study released today by the Western Organization of Resource Councils paints a grim picture for the U.S. wheat industry if genetically modified hard red spring wheat is introduced in the near future. The study, prepared by Dr. Robert Wisner - a leading grain market economist at Iowa State University - predicts the commercial introduction of genetically modified wheat in the next two to six years would result in a loss of 30 to 50 percent of U.S. export markets and a one third drop in wheat prices.

"While there are many unknowns about genetically modified wheat, one thing's for certain," said Montana wheat farmer Helen Waller, a member of the Northern Plains Resource Council, "Commercial introduction into Montana, North Dakota, and other wheat-producing states could result in our wheat commanding only feed grain prices, consequently reducing our market price by a third. And that will put farmers like myself out of business."

At issue is a genetically modified variety of hard red spring wheat produced by Monsanto, Inc. Forty percent of U.S. hard red spring wheat is exported, primarily to Asian buyers who have repeatedly indicated that they will not buy genetically modified wheat.

Key findings of the study include:

  • Between 30 and 50% of the foreign market for U.S. hard red spring wheat, and even more of the U.S. durum wheat exports, could be lost if genetically modified hard red spring wheat is introduced into the U.S. in the next two to six years.
  • U.S. average hard red spring wheat prices would be forced down to feed-wheat price levels, approximately one-third lower than the average of recent years.
  • Durum and white wheat exports and prices also would likely face substantial risk; other classes of wheat would face slightly lower risk.
  • Loss of wheat export markets would lead to loss of wheat acreage; loss of revenue to industries supplying inputs to wheat producers; losses for other rural farm-related and non-farm businesses, local and state government tax revenues, and institutions supported by tax revenues; and diminished economic health of rural communities and state governments in the spring wheat belt.

"A large majority of foreign consumers and wheat buyers do not want genetically modified wheat," said Dr. Wisner. "Right or wrong, consumers are the driving force in countries where food labeling allows choice."

Western Organization of Resource Councils
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