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Monsanto withdraws GMO wheat from all but US FDA

22.06.2004
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Monsanto withdraws GMO wheat from all but US FDA
WINNIPEG, Manitoba - Monsanto Co. (MON.N: Quote, Profile, Research) has formally withdrawn submissions for its genetically modified wheat from all regulatory agencies except the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, a company spokeswoman said.

The withdrawal is the last step in Monsanto\'s announcement last month that it would shelve plans to introduce the world\'s first GMO wheat, spokesman Chris Horner said.

\"It\'s a natural part of the process that we announced last month,\" Horner said.

Monsanto had asked for government approvals for the GMO wheat in Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Russia, South Africa and Columbia, Horner said.

The company and regulators in the countries \"mutually agreed\" that Monsanto should withdraw its submissions, he said.

Monsanto had planned to commercialize the wheat for growth in Canada and the United States, but ran into opposition from export buyers who worried their consumers would reject it.

Canadian and U.S. farm groups and exporters worried that the modified wheat could not be kept separate from their traditional crops, putting other grain at risk of rejection from buyers.

Environmental groups around the world also demonstrated against the wheat because of safety fears.

Monsanto has said it would wait to resume work on the wheat, designed to resist applications of its Round Up weed killer, until other types of GMO wheat are commercialized.

In the United States, the company withdrew submissions it had made to the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Environmental Protection Agency, but decided to proceed with an application at the Food and Drug Administration.

The FDA review is believed to be almost complete, Horner said. Approval from the agency would establish that the wheat is safe for human and livestock consumption. \"It would establish the safety for food and feed consumption, and it would be be one less regulatory approval to obtain, if and when that day ever comes,\" Horner said.

Approval from the FDA alone would not be enough to allow Monsanto to commercialize the wheat, Horner added.

\"It doesn\'t change the commercialization status at all, but from a regulatory perspective it (would) indicate that there are no issues with this product from a food and feed safety perspective,\" he said.

The U.S. wheat industry agrees with Monsanto\'s decision to proceed with FDA approvals, said U.S. Wheat Associates, a trade group that promotes U.S. wheat overseas.

\"We appreciate that FDA will complete its reviews of health aspects of Roundup Ready wheat, so that the concerns of critics can be answered,\" the group\'s president Alan Tracy said in a release.

Monsanto withdrew all its feed, food and environmental safety regulatory applications in Canada, where the Canadian Wheat Board, which exports most of the country\'s wheat, had threatened to sue the company if it received approvals.

\"Monsanto has made the right decision,\" said Louise Waldman, a spokeswoman for the wheat board.

The CWB continues to lobby the Canadian government to change its regulatory process to consider the market impact of future GMO wheat varieties before granting them approval, Waldman said.


Story by Roberta Rampton

REUTERS NEWS SERVICE
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