Italian miller reacts to GM feeling
import genetically modified (GM) wheat because consumers do not
want it, its CEO Antonio Costato said on Monday.
Italy's biggest miller, Grandi Molini Italiani (GMI), refuses to import genetically modified (GM) wheat because consumers do not want it, its CEO Antonio Costato said on Monday.
"We will not only avoid buying GM wheat, but we will probably be forced to completely avoid importing from those countries/regions where it is known that GM wheat is grown," he said, outlining GMI's position if the United States or Canada commercialised GM wheat.
"In a situation with ample and cheap alternative supplies and a general, strongly convinced public opinion against genetically modified organisms (GMOs), we will have no alternative," he added.
Consumer groups in Europe and Japan have protested vigorously against what the popular media terms 'Frankenstein foods', fearing health and environmental risks from GM crops.
Costato outlined family-owned GMI's position last week at a board meeting of the US Wheat Associates, a trade organisation that promotes exports, in Oklahoma City.
Costato told Reuters on Monday: "After a very frank and realistic presentation, the attendees (US Department of Agriculture and farmers representing the main wheat growing states) came to the conclusion that GM wheat cannot be an issue for the time being."
Leading biotech concern Monsanto told the Oklahoma City meeting it had pulled back from its stated timeline for bringing a GM Roundup Ready (RR) wheat to market by 2005.
However, Monsanto is pursuing US regulatory approval of RR wheat this year, according to the US Wheat Associates.
RR wheat has a gene that allows it to withstand Monsanto's Roundup herbicide. The company, based in St. Louis, said it would bring the crop to market after it builds demand for the product.
GM crops that have already reached the market - mainly soybeans, maize and cotton - have gained in popularity among North American farmers. But concerns about consumer resistance are making it hard for any new GM crop to gain a foothold among buyers.
Costato, who heads European millers' group Euroflour, said the media in Europe was conducting a campaign against GMOs.
"European consumers are not attracted by GM food," said Costato, whose Rovigo-based company has a 15 per cent share of Italy's milling wheat industry. "They do not see any benefit from them. Moreover, they have read and heard about the growing protest by European farmers against globalisation as the cause of the deterioration in the quality of food and the environment," he added.
In the last two crop campaigns, GMI milled some 1.3 million tonnes of wheat, of which 90 per cent was imported from various origins. Italy has the largest milling industry in Europe. Italians are not only bread eaters, but they also consume and export the national dish, pasta, made from durum wheat.
Italy's aggregate annual demand for flour and semolina is 11 million tonnes of wheat, including 5.8 million tonnes of milling varieties and 5.2 million tonnes of durum, according to GMI.