Monday, May 19, 2003

Cropchoice has a good piece on Washington State wheat breeder Steve Jones, whose funding the state wheat commission has threatened to withhold unless he licenses BASF GM technology. Clarifies some issues raised by the K-State-Monsanto soybean deal I noted a couple weeks ago.
Dan McKay, owner of McKay Seed Company, is one of the commissioners who introduced the measure to withhold funding for the breeding program. He says growers in his district are "going broke" because goatgrass, cereal rye and other weeds are decreasing the value of their harvests. Resistance to Beyond would give them a new tool to make weed control easier. They could spray the herbicide without harming the wheat.

"If growers want a tool, it's obligatory for the breeders to do what growers want," McKay says.

Chris Herron, who grows wheat in Connell and leads the Research Committee of the Washington Association of Wheat Growers, disagrees. He and his neighbors don't have excessively weedy fields, Herron says. Keeping out the unwanted plants requires careful management. This means harvesting in -- and saving seed from -- fields only where weeds aren't an issue, practicing proper crop rotation and planting only certified seed.

"All of a sudden a farmer wakes up one day and says, 'Holy Cow, I've got goatgrass on my whole farm. I need Steve Jones to breed me some [imazamox]-resistant wheat.' I don't think it's Steve Jones's responsibility to bail that farmer out of his poor management," Herron says.


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