Report: Biotech Wheat Would Lower Wheat Income

Overall, the wheat industry could lose $94 million to $272 million according to WORC report. Compiled by staff


Published on: Aug 30, 2005

Introduction of genetically modified wheat would lower income for wheat growers and the wheat industry, according to a report released Tuesday.

Published by WORC (Western Organization of Resource Councils), Harvest at Risk – Impacts of Roundup Ready Wheat in the Northern Great Plains examines the likely consequences of Roundup Ready wheat adoption and projects economic impacts on wheat growers and the wheat industry.

"This is a technology for which there is really no compelling need," says Dr. Charles Benbrook, author of the study. "Existing weed management systems are stable, the price of weed management is not increasing, and farmers are managing resistance to currently used herbicides."

If Roundup Ready wheat is introduced, increased seed and herbicide costs and reduced wheat prices would outweigh the operating cost savings from Roundup Ready wheat’s simplified weed management by as much as $37 per acre, the report concludes. Farmers who do not plant Roundup Ready wheat would also face increased costs and lower income, ranging from $5.60 to $18 per acre.

"Overall, the wheat industry could lose $94 million to $272 million," Benbrook says.

The report projects costs per bushel and per acre for farmers adopting Roundup Ready wheat and for non-adopters under a best-case scenario and a worst-case scenario. In either case, farmers would lose money from introduction and use of Roundup Ready wheat.

The report finds mostly negative affects from nine factors affecting the costs and benefits of growing Roundup Ready wheat: emergence of resistance, gene flow, disease pressure and related problems, impacts on seed plus herbicide expenditures, market rejection, dockage, yields, grain quality, and wheat prices.

Harvest at Risk is the latest WORC report analyzing the probable effects of commercial introduction of Roundup Ready, genetically modified wheat. An earlier report by WORC found that introduction of genetically modified wheat in the U.S. risks the loss of one-fourth to one-half of U.S. hard red spring and durum wheat export markets and up to a one-third drop in price.

WORC commissioned the study to answer questions about gene flow and contamination, weed resistance, disease problems and cost and returns, says Dena Hoff, WORC Chair, farmer, and member of the Northern Plains Resource Council.

"There are other unanswered questions about the impacts on soil and water and human and animal health that should be studied," Hoff says. "We’re going to have to work together so that we don’t put our harvest at risk."

Monsanto indefinitely postponed development of Roundup Ready wheat in May 2004.