Likely On-Farm Impacts of GE Wheat
The introduction of GE wheat poses many threats to farmers. A transition to a GE crop system requires increased investment in pesticides, synthetic fertilizers, and patented seeds. These products are quite costly and are shown to have very little, if any, return on investment. Farmers who transitioned to GE corn, soy, and sugar have seen a leveling off in yield and are facing increased expenses for inputs and the rise of pesticide-resistant superweeds, plaguing farms in 17 states.
As seen with corn and soy, the introduction of GE wheat seeds will further consolidate the seed market giving the farmers fewer choices—a concerning fact as the demand for non-GE seeds is on the rise. Additionally, as demonstrated in corn, even those farmers who choose not to use patented seeds face potential litigation for patent infringement from biotech companies due to accidental natural movement of seeds.
Ultimately, this form of chemical-intensive agriculture has long-term negative impacts on soil health, surrounding ecosystems, and neighboring communities. The economic and environmental costs greatly outweigh the marketed benefits of transitioning to a GE crop system.
Market Impact of the Introduction of GE Wheat
Wheat is a major export crop for the United States. In 2012, the US wheat harvest was valued at $17.9 billion, and about $8.1 billion in American wheat was exported, or nearly half the total crop. Many countries ban GE crop imports; therefore, the introduction of GE wheat would significantly threaten the US export market and leave wheat farmers without customers.
The US supply chain is not prepared to handle the segregation of non-GE and GE wheat. A 2010 economic analysis shows that the cost to establish multiple supply chains would greatly increase the price of wheat, threatening the market viability of US wheat at home and abroad. Yet, segregation would be the only way to prevent contamination of the US wheat supply. Some countries are expected to swear off US wheat altogether if GE wheat is introduced, because of the ease of contamination. It is estimated that the price of hard red spring wheat would drop 40%, and the price of durum wheat would fall 57%.
US wheat farmers will see an increase in production costs, including costs for segregation, chemical inputs, and GE seeds, as well as a decrease in revenue due to loss of market share. This will have a drastic impact on the economic sustainability of the Great Plains “Breadbasket”, including Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Wyoming, and more states.
Current consumer preferences are increasingly shifting towards non-GMO and organic. The introduction of GE wheat will contaminate the domestic supply of wheat, causing purchasers and consumers to look to foreign imports, alternative grain varieties, and/or organic wheat.
GE sugar beet farmers are already experiencing a loss of market share as more and more companies are responding to consumer demand and transitioning to non-GMO and organic ingredients. If farmers transition to GE wheat, any promised financial benefits would be short lived as the domestic markets continue to shift away from GMOs.
Are you a wheat grower?
If you are concerned about the impact GE wheat will have on the wheat industry, should it enter the marketplace, or are interested in making a statement expressing your concerns on this issue, please contact Anna Meyer, Food Campaigns Director, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Historical Timeline of GE Wheat
This is not the first time that efforts have been made to develop GE wheat. We’ve blocked GE Wheat before, and we can do it again!