Monsanto’s GM Wheat in Development Despite Consumer Push Back
Some think that with minimal market saturation, GM wheat could become a strong seller in the US, just like genetically modified corn, soy, canola oil, cottonseed, and other GM crops. Monsanto ditched the efforts to develop this particular crop 10 years ago, but has relatively recently begun working to create a new strain of the crop. Why the sudden interest again in GM wheat? 
Monsanto has been working hard to create new GM wheat over the last year. This, after abandoning efforts in the 1990’s. At its Chesterfield Village Research Center, scientists say they can create a wheat-strain that is resistant to a trio of herbicides. Despite consumer push-back, the company will spend more than $150 million to alter just one gene in a wheat seed.
That $150 million could go a long way to teach farmers around the world how to grow food sustainably. Why does Monsanto wish to put that money toward genetically modifying nature when we know that we are destroying our farmland at unprecedented rates by using so many pesticides and herbicides (via genetically modified crops engineered to withstand copious amounts of the chemicals)?
The agriculture giant was on the verge of seeking regulatory approval for a Roundup Ready version of hard red spring wheat, typically used for bread flour in the 1990’s, but in May 2004, Monsanto halted the program citing changing market conditions. It was clear that growers — worried about consumer backlash — weren’t ready.
“There was massive opposition,” said Bill Freese, a GMO critic and science policy analyst for the Center for Food Safety.
Have farmers also come to the conclusion that Monsanto’s promises about GM and Bt toxic crops producing higher yields are empty? The cost of GM seeds keep going up, so even if another strain of GM crop was developed – wheat – could farmers even profit from growing it?
“It didn’t take long, however, before wheat farmers grew tired of watching neighbors switch to more profitable corn and soybeans — both having seen greater yield increases fueled by stronger breeding programs and genetic modifications. By 2006, the number of U.S. acres planted with wheat had dropped to 57 million, down from 75 million a decade earlier. Soybeans, on the other hand, surged from 64 million to 75 million during the same period, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.”
“We came to the conclusion that we had to do something,” said Paul Penner, president of the National Association of Wheat Growers. “It’s no fun raising wheat if you are making a loss on it.”
Consumers have demanded GM labeling, and nations across the world are banning GM crops. Where does Monsanto plan on selling a GM wheat variety with so many countries passing legislation that support a GM-free agricultural environment?
You have one guess – if it starts with a U and ends with an A, you’re likely right. The USA is one of the few markets where GM crops are still viable, but even that is changing, as evidenced by Monsanto’s latest stock losses.
One of the world’s most hated companies can spend millions on developing GM wheat, but you won’t find it in my morning cereal, and many millions of people feel the same way.
Christina Sarich is a humanitarian and freelance writer helping you to Wake up Your Sleepy Little Head, and See the Big Picture. Her blog is Yoga for the New World. Her latest book is Pharma Sutra: Healing the Body And Mind Through the Art of Yoga.