Dairy farms urged to cut out GM feed (13/5/2004)

1.Dairy farms urged to cut out GM feed
2.Is this the end of GM wheat?

1.Dairy farms urged to cut out GM feed
John Vidal
The Guardian, Thursday May 13, 2004

The British dairy industry, which imports hundreds of thousands of tonnes of GM soya and maize for cattle feed every year, could go completely GM-free for less than 1p extra per litre of milk, according to a study by Greenpeace.

Switching to GM-free animal feed would not only be politically and socially popular says the report but would reduce dependency on imports and stimulate better farming. But any extra costs should be borne by the major supermarkets almost all of whose own-brand milk comes from cows fed on GM feed imported from the US and Argentina, it says.

The report, produced with the rural campaign group Farm, urges farmers to give their cows non-GM soya and other imported feed and, in time, to move to growing lupins and other high protein crops for home-grown food.

The idea is endorsed by Michael Eavis, a Somerset dairy farmer and the organiser of the Glastonbury festival. He said: "My cows no longer eat GM feed. It was easy to make the switch because there are non-GM alternatives. And if there was more demand, GM-free feed would become more mainstream."

The report says it would be "inappropriate" for farmers to bear any costs of switching animal feed. "Given their much larger profit margins, the supermarkets ... are clearly best placed to cover the costs," it says.

It also argues that other advantages for the UK dairy industry of switching to non-GM include "less reliance on imported feed ... and, through a less intensive model of farming brought about by home-grown cattle feed, the creation of more rural jobs."

Yesterday the Dairy Industry association said there was no evidence of any GM material in British milk.

2.Is this the end of GM wheat?
John Vidal Thursday May 13, 2004 The Guardian (Life section)

Up to a point. Monsanto this week said it was abandoning plans to introduce a GM herbicide-tolerant wheat to the world market following resistance from Canadian and US growers who feared they would lose their massive export markets. But on past performance this may be a tactical withdrawal rather than an admission of defeat.

The company has invested more in researching and developing GM wheat than any other crop. Oil seed rape, maize, cotton and soybeans, its four GM "success stories", were comparatively simple to engineer and market, but the gene-carrying chromosomes of wheat are a collection of complex genomes from three wild grasses. This led to technical problems and long delays to its development and introduction.

Nevertheless, until recently Monsanto thought it had won the race to develop a blockbuster GM wheat that included the herbicide-resistance gene for glyphosate, the active ingredient of its bestselling weedkiller Roundup. Field tests suggested that it increased yields by up to 14%.

The company, which has already dropped efforts to market GM potatoes and vegetables, is not the only group working on GM wheat. However, because Monsanto owns most of the patents relating to herbicide tolerance, other companies wanting to crack the global wheat market must try to develop crops that are resistant to specific diseases.

The Swiss GM company Syngenta has concentrated its research on breeding a wheat that is resistant to fusarium head blight, a fungal disease that costs US farmers roughly $300m a year. It has been working with American universities and field trials are under way in the US, Germany, Spain, Argentina, and Canada.

British GM wheat tests have been largely moved to Germany, but the Institute of Arable Crops Research still has an ongoing programme. China says it has banned the development of GM wheat, but this is hard to verify.,Meanwhile, trials are believed to be taking place in developing countries.

Syngenta says its GM wheat is still years from the market, but following the hostility that Monsanto met from growers, no major company is now likely to try to introduce a GM crop for human consumption on a large scale.

Until European and Japanese consumers and farmers perceive GM wheat to be more beneficial to human health than conventional crops, it is highly unlikely that it will be grown for many years on the great plains and prairies of America and Canada. In one day this week, Monsanto's share price dived 3%, hard-nosed proof that export markets are now just as important as food and environmental safety for biotech companies.

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