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NAMA Position on Biotech Wheat

The North American Millers’ Association (NAMA) supports science that contributes to food safety, health and wellness. Biotechnology is one scientific tool that can improve food quality, safety and sanitation; increase production efficiency; advance sustainability through judicious use of water and agricultural nutrients; and help meet growing domestic and world food demand.

NAMA members will utilize grains grown using science-based technologies that are equivalent in nutrition and safety to traditionally grown crops.

With wheat yield trend lines relatively flat and recent wheat stocks at the lowest levels in half a century, NAMA believes steps must be taken now to clear the way for the commercialization of biotech wheat as soon as feasibly possible. In 2010, 93 percent of the US soybean crop, 86 percent of the corn crop and 78 percent of the cotton crop benefited from biotechnology. Corn, soybean and cotton yields have each increased approximately 30 percent over the last 20 years, double the yield increase of wheat during that time period. Without the gains achievable through biotechnology, wheat will continue to fall further behind relative to competing crops.

NAMA supports the coordinated regulatory framework established by the US government to oversee introduction of new products developed through biotechnology. This process must continue to be science-based and rely on prudent risk-analysis.

NAMA believes the following must be achieved to ensure a successful introduction of biotech wheat:

  • Technology providers must be engaged and encouraged to invest in biotech wheat. The value of biotech traits must be captured and enforced (brown bagging of seed – saving some of last year’s crop for seed) cannot be tolerated).
  • Acceptance of the technology by our customers and consumers must be aggressively pursued. This will be achieved through rigorous sharing of information on the technology’s benefits to our downstream partners. We are heartened by recent national polling data showing that only 2 percent of Americans are concerned about the safety of biotech, and none of those polled are avoiding any particular foods due to biotech content.
  • Coordination, to the maximum extent possible, of the commercialization of biotech wheat varieties in the US with commercialization of similar traits in Canada and Australia. A coalition of NAMA and grower groups in the US, Canada and Australia agree to a joint statement to this effect in 2009.
  • Establishment of clear definitions of success in meeting the above commitments through dialogue between technology providers, government agencies and industry stakeholders, followed by wide publication of this information to the international grain community, consumers and others.
  • Establishment of procedures that will enable USDA to continue to certify that no biotech wheat varieties are for sale, or in commercial production in the US during the period between government approval and commercialization of biotech wheat.

It must be recognized that the development and introduction of biotech wheat is still years away. However, we are excited about the renewed interest and investment in wheat research by several technology firms. Their new research, both conventional and biotech, are the first substantial investments in wheat technology in years.

This is a living document that reflects the position of the North American Millers’ Association at this time. It will continue to be refined and revised to keep current with our customers, consumers and progress in the technology.

Last updated February 1, 2011.

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