The US wheat industry needs a range of biotechnology advancements to stay competitive said industry officials on Sunday, adding they would urge the launch of some type of biotech wheat before the decade's end.
"The hope and promise of biotechnology is so compelling and the faster we can do it, the better off we'll be," Sherman Reese, vice president of the National Association of Wheat Growers (NAWG) was quoted as saying by Reuters.
Reese and other wheat industry leaders were attending the North American Grain Conference in Reno, which finished yesterday.
The US Wheat Associates, which markets American wheat to foreign buyers, also voted to approve a plan to promote biotech wheat through educational seminars, country-specific promotional programs, safety and quality demonstrations and guiding development of segregation systems.
This agreement may well kick start interest in genetically engineered wheat almost a year after Monsanto announced it was postponing efforts to introduce its Roundup Ready wheat, until other wheat biotechnology traits were introduced.
"As a result of our portfolio review and dialogue with wheat industry leaders, we recognize the business opportunities with Roundup Ready spring wheat are less attractive relative to Monsanto's other commercial priorities," said Carl Casale, executive vice president of Monsanto, at the time.
Monsanto began developing Roundup Ready wheat in 1997 and claimed that its six years of research had proved its ability to perform under difficult production environments and its potential to increase yields by 5 percent to 15 percent.
"Biotech is critical for the future of the wheat industry," NAWG chief executive officer Daren Coppock was quoted as saying. "We have a limited amount of time to get this thing turned around."
However, biotech wheat could be more difficult to export than traditional varieties, particularly into Europe, where consumer opinion still seems to be fixed, on the whole, against GM crops.
Wheat, along with corn and soy, is the starting point for a range of food ingredients, from starch to gluten, and therefore used widely in food applications.