* Genetically altered wheat seen inevitable
* Bakers, millers want more involvement in GMO wheat work
* Alongside Monsanto, Syngenta, DuPont also eyes GMO wheat
By Carey Gillam
CHICAGO, May 4 As seed developers around the
world work to develop a genetically modified wheat, U.S.
millers and bakers - formerly staunch opponents of such efforts
- are offering their support, but insisting they need to be
more involved before any biotech wheat is brought to market.
Reluctance by U.S. consumers and foreign buyers to accept a
genetically altered wheat in their bread, crackers and other
foods, remains a critical concern, milling and baking leaders
said on Tuesday.
To help broaden acceptance, a new GMO wheat needs to
include nutritional improvements for consumers and/or improving
milling and baking characteristics, according to Hayden Wands,
director of procurement at Sara Lee Corp SLE.N and an
official of the American Bakers Association.
"We're not one hundred percent convinced that our customers
will go for a GMO wheat unless it has enhanced
characteristics," Wands told a gathering of agriculture and
technology industry players at the Biotechnology Industry
Organization convention in Chicago.
"We would like to see them a little more specialized and a
little more customer focused than just yield focused," Wands
said. "The customers are going to rule and we are going to
follow their demands."
North American Millers' Association chairman John Miller
told the convention attendees that technology developers need
to let millers and bakers participate in testing and helping
refine end products to help ensure acceptance, but so far the
developers have shown little such interest.
Miller said availability of quality wheat supplies at
affordable prices were key concerns as wheat acreage in the
United States is in steady decline.
Monsanto (MON.N), a leading developer of corn and soybeans
genetically altered to tolerate herbicide treatments and resist
pests, backed away from a plan to launch an herbicide-tolerant
"Roundup Ready" spring wheat in 2004 amid an outpouring of
opposition. Currently no biotech wheat is grown on a commercial
scale anywhere in the world due to opposition from consumers
and food industry players.
But Monsanto said last year it would restart its biotech
wheat effort to focus on making wheat plants more drought
tolerant, more efficient in the use of nitrogen and higher
In addition, researchers in Australia, Dow AgroSciences, a
unit of Dow Chemical (DOW.N) AgroSciences, Syngenta SYNN.VX,
Limagrain, and others have said they are researching genetic
improvements for wheat, but it will likely be at least several
years before any commercial products are available.
DuPont group vice president James Borel, who oversees
DuPont's Pioneer Hi-Bred seed business, said on Tuesday DuPont
was edging into biotech wheat development as well, but it would
be a slow process.
U.S. wheat acres have been declining in recent years as
farmers shift to more profitable crops.
(Reporting by Carey Gillam; Editing by Marguerita Choy)