One of humanity's most important staple foods, wheat, is being targeted by genetic engineers.
Wheat forms an important part of many people's diet around the
world. It has enormous economic, nutritional and cultural
significance. The commercial introduction of genetically engineered
(GE) wheat would have significant environmental and economical
The impact to farmers
The introduction of GE wheat would bring little or no benefit
for farmers, while it would cause significant ecological and
economical disruption. Industry's promises of increased yields,
decreased pesticide use and overall economic gains haven't
materialised in other GE crops, and it's unlikely that they will do
for this crop. Instead, many farmers growing already commercialised
Roundup Ready crops faced yield losses, increased costs from
problems with herbicide resistant weeds and became increasingly
dependent on toxic chemicals.
Major markets for US and Canadian wheat exports have already
expressed their rejection of GE wheat. According to Canadian Wheat
Board (CWB) estimates, customers representing two-thirds of
Canada's wheat market do not wish to purchase or receive any GE
wheat. If commercialised, 100% segregation of GE wheat will be
impossible to achieve in practise, making contamination during
transport and handling inevitable.
Even though Monsanto is hedging on when the GE wheat will be
marketed, it's herbicide resistant Roundup Ready wheat seems to be
closest to commercialisation in the USA and Canada.
The end of natural wheat?
Besides the environmental threat of increased use of toxic
herbicides, the gene flow to wild related species, non-GE wheat or
unrelated organisms, secondary impacts on biodiversity as a result
of altered management practices and impacts on non-target
organisms, are of serious concern.
Because wheat is grown on such a vast scale globally, any
adverse impacts could be enormous. Thus, the environmental release
and the commercial production of GE wheat for food should be