Survey shows most Canadian farmers oppose GM wheat

By Caroline Scott-Thomas

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Gm wheat Wheat Gm

Most Canadian wheat farmers are opposed to the introduction of genetically modified (GM) wheat unless market conditions change, according to a Canadian Wheat Board (CWB) survey.

The annual CWB survey was based on 1,300 telephone interviews with Western Canadian farmers. It found that most (57 percent) thought that GM wheat should not be grown in Canada until certain conditions are met, such as added agronomic benefits for farmers or an identified market demand.

Nineteen percent said that GM wheat should not be grown in Canada, while only nine percent said it should be grown as soon as it becomes available.

The survey showed split opinion in how interested farmers would be in growing a GM wheat variety: 51 percent said they were “not interested at all”, while 46 percent said they were “somewhat” or “very” interested.

Opposing views

The issue of GM wheat has moved to the fore since a group of wheat industry representatives from Canada, the US and Australia signed a joint statement in May pledging to synchronize their efforts to commercialize the introduction of GM wheat.

Their position prompted a counter-statement from another tri-national group of organizations that centered on the lack of consumer acceptance for GM wheat and lack of agronomic benefits of existing GM crops.

Contradicting US wheat growers?

The CWB survey results on Canadian farmers’ attitudes to GM wheat could be seen as contradictory to a similar survey conducted by the US National Association of Wheat Growers (NAWG) in February.

The NAWG said that 76 percent of respondents were in favor of a petition for developing biotech traits in wheat. However, it has since been criticized for only including farms with at least 500 acres of wheat and 1000 acres in production. The NAWG said the reason for excluding smaller farms was “in an effort to concentrate on commercial wheat growers and to manage mailing and data costs”.

The reply post card asked respondents to either agree or disagree “with the National Association of Wheat Growers petition to support the development of advanced technologies and biotech traits in wheat.”

There are currently no commercially available GM wheat varieties.

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