LA JOLLA, CA (B)--Resistance to genetically modified foods in many grain importing countries suggests Canada should not rush into adopting GMO wheat when such varieties become available, the head of a major Canadian grain cooperative said Feb. 8.

Gordon Cummings, chief executive officer of Agricore, based in Alberta, noted crop breeder Monsanto "is pushing ahead with genetically modified wheat, but we are not ready for it.... It is a threat to our exports."

Monsanto is the developer of grain seeds genetically modified to withstand the effects of its powerful Roundup herbicide.

Speaking at the National Grain Trade Council meeting here, Cummings said "the need for Roundup Ready wheat is interesting but not quite as vital" because the crop protection needs for wheat are not as high as those for soybeans, corn or canola.

Canada typically exports more than two-thirds of its wheat crop each year. In the past few years Canada has taken a pragmatic approach to the GMO issue. For example, virtually all the Canadian canola crop is genetically altered and cannot be sold to Europe. However, Canada was essentially prepared to sacrifice potential sales of canola to Europe, which is usually self sufficient on canola (rapeseed) because it had other, larger and more reliable export markets. For flaxseed, by contrast, where Europe is a key customer, Canada elected not to go the GMO route.

Recently there have been reports that Monsanto is working with U.S. wheat groups to bring Roundup Ready wheat to the market in as little as three years. Such groups as the U.S. Wheat Associates have termed those reports premature. Without enumerating a probable timeframe, Monsanto's director of biotech business development recently said the company would get approval for animal and human consumption of GMO wheat in the United States and Japan before introducing it to the market.

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