Because of several concerns, Monsanto is delaying the introduction of its bioengineered Roundup Ready wheat by at least a year. The company’s new timetable will delay, until at least 2004 and possibly 2005, the introduction of Roundup-resistant wheat.
Originally, the company had expected to market Roundup-resistant wheat seed to U.S. farmers between 2003 and 2005. However, the company is still convinced that wheat growers will eventually buy the bioengineered seed for planting millions of acres of wheat once all the problems are worked out with the new technology.
While Monsanto has been successful in transplanting the Roundup-resistant gene into corn and cotton, getting the trait into a high-yielding wheat has taken more time than originally anticipated. Company researchers had to find new transformation techniques in order to create a wheat plant that would prove favorable to farmers.
The company expects to start submitting data later this year to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regarding the consumer safety of Roundup-resistant wheat plants. One major area that the FDA is expected to closely scrutinize is whether any allergens might accidentally be transplanted into bioengineered plants.
With some U.S. and Canadian wheat farmers concerned about the role of Roundup Ready wheat, the company will use the additional time to build support for the bioengineered seed. One concern among wheat growers is foreign acceptance of herbicide-resistant wheats. This is much more critical than with GMO corn and cotton because of the huge size of the small grain export market. There is also concern…