There's coverage around the world of the Monsanto retreat on GM wheat - see urls for multiple items below.
There's wide coverage in the US where the Washington Post describes Monsanto's decision to scrap GM wheat as "the biggest defeat yet for advocates of agricultural biotechnology -- and a victory for skeptics who said the company was trying to foist on the world a crop it did not want or need." (url below)
The New York Times says the company is "bowing to the concerns of American farmers that the crop would endanger billions of dollars of exports". It says, "The announcement indicates how difficult it is becoming to introduce genetic engineering into new crops beyond the four that have been genetically engineered for years - canola, corn, cotton and soybeans."
The NYT also reports that shares in Monsanto fell by more than a dollar yesterday and that the GM wheat retreat is just the latest "retrenchment for Monsanto. A few years ago, it said it would confine its research mainly to four main crops... It dropped genetically modified potatoes after fast-food companies said that they would not buy them. Last year, Monsanto dropped plans to try to use genetically modified crops to produce pharmaceuticals."
It notes that where GM crops are being grown this is only because they are largely going into animal feed or processing. Gregory Jaffe, director of biotechnology programs at the Center for Science in the Public Interest, is quoted as saying, "It will be difficult to market biotech crops designed primarily for human consumption in the near future." (article in full below)
Victory: Monsanto drops GE Wheat
Asian wheat importers welcome Monsanto GM decision
North Dakota ag officials praise biotech wheat decision
Grand Forks Herald, ND http://www.grandforks.com/mld/grandforks/business/8636734.htm
Campaigners Hail 'Victory' on GM Wheat
The Scotsman, UK http://news.scotsman.com/latest.cfm?id=2907638
Monsanto Shelves Plan for Modified Wheat
New York Times http://www.nytimes.com/2004/05/11/business/worldbusiness/11wheat.html?ex=1084852800&en=00130a571ebb059a&ei=5062&partner=GOOGLE
Monsanto pulls plans to commercialize gene altered wheat
Washington Post http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A15998-2004May10.html
Monsanto gives up on bid for genetically engineered wheat
Monsanto drops plans for GM wheat
BBC News, UK http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/business/3702739.stm
GE wheat battle won, but war against GE food wages on
CNW Telbec (Communiqués de presse), Canada http://www.cnw.ca/fr/releases/archive/May2004/10/c1146.html
Monsanto can change its mind on GE , so can Labour
Scoop.co.nz, New Zealand http://www.scoop.co.nz/mason/stories/PA0405/S00201.htm
Monsanto GE wheat not worth the risks
Stuff.co.nz, New Zealand http://www.stuff.co.nz/stuff/0,2106,2904351a6026,00.html
Monsanto Shelves Plan for Modified Wheat
By ANDREW POLLACK
New York Times, May 11, 2004
Monsanto said yesterday that it had halted its effort to introduce the world's first genetically engineered wheat, bowing to the concerns of American farmers that the crop would endanger billions of dollars of exports.
The announcement indicates how difficult it is becoming to introduce genetic engineering into new crops beyond the four that have been genetically engineered for years - canola, corn, cotton and soybeans.
Monsanto has already largely dropped efforts to develop genetically modified potatoes and vegetables and, while it is not giving up on wheat, its efforts over the next few years will be even more focused on corn, cotton and soybeans. Genetic engineering of those crops is somewhat less controversial because they are used largely for animal feed, clothing or food oils, while wheat is more likely to be used directly in food.
"Consumer acceptance and the readiness of the commercial markets are as important as food and environmental safety for biotech crops these days," said Gregory Jaffe, director of biotechnology programs at the Center for Science in the Public Interest, a consumer group. He added, "It will be difficult to market biotech crops designed primarily for human consumption in the near future."
The wheat was genetically engineered to be resistant to Monsanto's Roundup herbicide, which would allow farmers to spray their fields to kill weeds while leaving the crop intact.
While Roundup Ready wheat attracted the expected opposition from consumer groups and environmental advocates, what was unusual in this case was the opposition of many American and Canadian farmers, who have eagerly adopted other biotechnology crops.
These farmers say that wheat buyers in Europe, Japan and some other countries had told them they would not buy genetically modified wheat because they thought consumers did not want it. Moreover, some buyers threatened not to buy any American wheat because it would be impossible to keep the modified and nonmodified wheat from intermingling.
"Farmers are not opposed to planting a genetically modified crop as long as they could find someone to buy it," said Robert Carlson, the president of the North Dakota Farmers Union, who farms near Minot, N.D. In this case he said, the overseas customers "have indicated they will not accept any genetically modified wheat."
Monsanto said in a statement yesterday that it made its decision after "extensive consultation with customers in the wheat industry." But it said another reason was that the acreage being planted in the United States and Canada with spring wheat, the type it genetically engineered, had shrunk 25 percent since 1997, reducing the potential market size.
A spokesman for Monsanto said the company had already applied for approval of Roundup Ready wheat in the United States and Canada and would not immediately withdraw the applications. The company said it might introduce the wheat, perhaps in four to eight years, when other types of genetically engineered wheat might be ready for market.
Monsanto had already delayed introduction of the wheat and - before yesterday's announcement - had been vague about when it would actually start selling it. But some people in the wheat business said they had expected it around 2006.
This is the latest retrenchment for Monsanto. A few years ago, it said it would confine its research mainly to four main crops that would provide the biggest markets: corn, cotton, soybeans and wheat. It dropped genetically modified potatoes after fast-food companies said that they would not buy them. Last year, Monsanto dropped plans to try to use genetically modified crops to produce pharmaceuticals.
Still, the acreage devoted to the existing genetically modified crops is growing, both in the United States and worldwide. Monsanto said it would work on soybeans with healthier oil and drought-tolerant corn.
Shares of Monsanto fell $1.01 yesterday, to $31.98.
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