Support for biotechnology may be best route for reversing downward trend in plantings

by Josh Sosland
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In many areas of business, including grain-based foods, change is said to come at an ever faster pace. One major exception would appear to be in progress toward the introduction of bioengineered wheat. Whether measured in terms of research, crop development or acceptance, progress for years has been more closely akin to glaciers in the ice age than to consumer trends in the 21st century.

Against this backdrop, an announcement earlier this month that stakeholder groups in major wheat exporting countries are seeking to move forward on a common timetable for the release of bioengineered wheat is certainly welcome. At the same time, the announcement may have prompted many to wonder how many months or years will pass before this step forward is followed by further substantive progress. The answer turned out to be not long at all.

The Kansas Bioscience Authority soon after revealed it will invest $4 million "to develop advanced technologies for gene discovery, trait validation and crop improvement" for wheat and sorghum. A total of $20 million is expected to be devoted to the effort in the next five years. Sources familiar with the matter indicated that grower commitment to bioengineered wheat was crucial to the funding decision, as was apparent progress in developing bioengineered wheat strains in Australia.

Clear industry signals in support of the responsible introduction of this technology is the best route to reversing the recent downward trend in wheat planting, a trend that otherwise will not abate.

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