Wheat production and harvested areas are on a long-term, downward trend around the world. Net returns per acre to farmers often favor other crops, and the differential is widening. An eventual supply and demand situation where smaller supplies of wheat are produced only in areas where more profitable alternatives do not exist will translate into supply challenges for the global food industry.
U.S. Wheat Associates (USW) supports finding new ways to improve wheat quality and increase production with less impact on the environment. New research in biotechnology and plant breeding innovation, including gene editing, will help make this possible.
- Why is wheat research important?
In 2008, the wheat industry actively decided to support advanced wheat research, including every type of technology from conventional breeding to biotechnology. Private technology providers and public universities have since announced their own research projects and partnerships in wheat breeding.
The wheat industry hopes these efforts will lead to greater sustainability for the entire wheat chain. USW is committed to ensuring that our customers can purchase the wheat they want and that trade disruptions are minimized.
- What are plant breeding innovations?
Wheat farmers need all of the tools in the toolbox, and plant breeding innovations promise to have a positive impact not just in developing wheat varieties that benefit farmers, but also in creating new varieties with traits that help millers, bakers and consumers. USW is dedicated to ensuring that regulation of new technology around the world is efficient and science-based so that trade barriers do not occur. USW is also focused on communicating the benefits of breeding tools and the research supporting their safety. USW and the National Association of Wheat Growers have adopted the following statement on plant breeding innovation:
Wheat Industry Plant Breeding Innovation Position Statement
The U.S. wheat industry recognizes the importance of new technology in breeding to farmers, customers, and consumers and supports plant-breeding innovations that can address wheat production, yield, and quality needs. We take the following positions:
- We believe that plant breeding innovation and new technology in agriculture are vital for the continued sustainability and success of U.S. wheat production.
- We recognize the value of robust breeding programs that utilize all available tools to ensure that the U.S. remains a leader in the production of high-quality wheat in consistent, reliable supplies.
- We believe that these new technologies not only benefit farmers, customers, and consumers, but also can have positive impacts on the environment and long-term health of U.S. agricultural land.
- We support science-based regulation where necessary and encourage the U.S. government and the governments of our trading partners to take steps to ensure open trade flows that are not impeded by the introduction of varieties developed through plant breeding innovation.
- We support the development of varieties that have benefits for our farmers, our customers, and consumers. These include disease-resistance traits, end-use quality traits, health traits, and climate stress traits.
- We support continued wheat research and partnership between public university research programs, private companies, and public sector entities.
- We urge the adoption of a nationally and internationally accepted definition of plant breeding innovation that clearly differentiates these methods from traditional biotechnology. We also urge international harmonization of scientific standards and trade rules.
USW is a member of the International Grain Trade Coalition (IGTC) , which works to promote science-based regulatory approaches around the world to minimize disruption to grain trade.
Learn more about plant breeding innovation from the American Seed Trade Association.
- Is wheat farming sustainable?
U.S. wheat farmers work every day to contribute to a sustainable future in agriculture. Sustainability is reflected in agronomic practices, research and development, and transportation methods, all of which contribute to making the United States a sustainable source of wheat for export. Sustainability is also about innovation — reducing inputs while producing better wheat varieties to increase yield potential and provide consistently high-quality wheat to customers around the world.
In 2015, USW joined the U.S. Sustainability Alliance to better communicate the importance of sustainability to U.S. wheat farmers, including developing a fact sheet on wheat sustainability. View here.
- How are U.S. wheat farmers sustainable?
Each U.S. production region is different and faces unique challenges, but farmers representing all six classes of U.S. wheat adapt to those challenges and make choices that are best for the environment and their farm. That commitment includes taking a multi-faceted approach, addressing things like generational, economic, agronomic sustainability, and more.
Learn more about how these six farmers practice sustainability:
- Do wheat farmers support using biotechnology or GMOs in wheat?
U.S. Wheat Associates (USW) and the National Association of Wheat Growers (NAWG) support the eventual commercialization of biotech wheat. USW works with industry partners to develop a comprehensive strategy to address the concerns of our overseas customers. This work is guided by our Wheat Industry Biotechnology Position Statement.
Biotechnological research holds great promise for the future, and the U.S. wheat industry recognizes these advancements. In preparation for the future commercialization of biotechnologically-derived wheat, we take the following positions:
- We support and will work to ensure the ability of wheat producers to make planting and marketing choices based on economic, agronomic, and market factors.
- We support the ability of our wheat customers to make purchases on the basis of specific traits. We commit ourselves to the principle that our customers’ needs are vitally important.
- We support and will assist in the development by all segments of the industry of an orderly marketing system to assure delivery of non-transgenic wheat within reasonable tolerances to markets that require it.
- We urge the adoption of a nationally and internationally accepted definition of biotechnologically-derived products1. We also urge international harmonization of scientific standards and trade rules.
- We support voluntary labeling of food products derived from biotech ingredients provided it is consistent with U.S. law and international trade agreements and is truthful and not misleading. We oppose federal or state mandated labeling of products based solely on the method of production, including foods derived from biotech ingredients, if they do not differ materially from their non-biotech counterparts.
- We support establishing low level presence (LLP2) policies for trade of wheat intended for food, feed and processing that are predictable, science-based and consistent with international guidelines. A workable LLP threshold should incorporate biological and logistical realities. We support a 5% LLP threshold on a trait specific basis as a reasonable level to achieve a cost effective approach. We further encourage governments to establish synchronized approval policies of biotech traits to minimize trade disruptions of biotech products.
- We are confident that biotechnology will deliver significant consumer and producer benefits and we support continued biotechnology research, and product and market development. We invite valued and interested customers to join with us in a working partnership to explore the emerging biotechnology industry.
To see the full statement, including definitions, click here.
The U.S. wheat industry recognizes the benefits and value which could be created within the wheat chain through the prudent application of modern biotechnology. U.S. wheat producers will support commercialization of transgenic wheat traits after thorough review and development of a commercialization plan that facilitates commercialization with minimal market disruption. We support the ability of our customers to make purchases based on their preferences for specific traits, classes, qualities, and characteristics. We will work diligently to assure that commercially achievable customer preferences are met. To see our Principles of Commercialization, click here.
In 2009, nine organizations representing wheat farmers and millers from the United States, Canada and Australia voiced support for the future commercialization of biotechnology in wheat. Additional organizations joined in 2014 to reconfirm and update that commitment, which also emphasizes the importance of customer choice. Read the Trilateral Statement here.
- Is biotech wheat available in the market?
At this time, there are no commercialized varieties of wheat available in the market that have been developed through biotechnology, though there are varieties that are being tested in field trials. USW is committed to keeping customers updated on any eventual release of biotech wheat.