The future commercialization of biotechnology, in the form of genetically-modified wheat, drew the attention of members of the Kansas Association of Wheat Growers during their board meeting, in Hays.

The discussion was fairly brief, with more discussion on the issue expected in future board gatherings possibly leading to a firm policy position.

KAWG Executive Vice President Brett Myers explained, "Our board members are getting themselves well-versed on the issue of genetically modified organisms, with the idea of detailed discussions on the issue at their next meeting." Meyers commented that the National Association of Wheat Growers, U.S. Wheat Associates, and the Wheat Export Trade Education Committee have adopted a formal policy acknowledging that biotechnological research holds great promise. He said the KAWG is looking into whether or not to adopt that policy for its own or whether or not to make modifications. The national position statement, in summary form, includes six points:

1. The U.S. wheat industry commits itself to the principle that customers' needs and preferences are the most important consideration.

2. We will work with all segments of the industry to develop and assure that a viable identity-preservation system and testing program is instituted prior to commercialization of products of biotechnology.

3. We urge the adoption of a nationally and internationally accepted definition of biotechnology-derived products.

4. We support voluntary labeling of food products, provided it is consistent with U.S. law and trade agreements and is truthful and not misleading. We oppose government-mandated labeling of wheat products based on the presence or absence of biotechnology-derived traits.

5. We support establishment of reasonable threshold levels of adventitious or accidental inclusion of biotechnology-derived traits in bulk wheat or wheat food products.

6. We invite customers to join us in a working partnership to explore the emerging biotechnology industry.

During the preliminary discussions on the issue by the KAWG board, KAWG Vice President John Thaemert, Sylvan Grove, in Lincoln County, urged his fellow board members to keep in mind the need "to produce wheat for our customers." Myers said he also expected the issue to be discussed in detail at the upcoming Wheat Day, in Hays, in May, with emphasis on whether that national policy meets the needs of Kansas wheat producers.

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