Biotechnology has the potential to help reverse the loss of wheat acres in the United States and help ensure there will be adequate supplies to feed a hungry world. That is the conclusion of a new wheat industry analysis released Thursday.
The eight-page paper outlines the competitiveness problem facing global wheat production and the wheat industry itself, which is increasingly vulnerable to short-term supply shocks and a long-term cycle of decline. The paper explains why this matters for the entire food chain – wheat growers, wheat users at home and abroad, and consumers in the industrialized and developing worlds.
Organizations collaborating on the paper included the National Association of Wheat Growers, U.S. Wheat Associates, the North American Millers’ Association, the Independent Bakers Association and the Wheat Foods Council.
The analysis emphasizes that there is no silver bullet to the competitiveness problem. However, it concludes that the rapid adoption of biotechnology traits in other crops produced around the world and grower testimonials in support of these traits lend credence to the idea that biotechnology can make a significant contribution.
The authors also devote significant space to their commitment to choice for consumers who wish to procure non-GM wheat and wheat products and for producers who choose to meet this demand.
Globally, more than two billion acres of biotech crops have been safely grown, though there is no commercial production of genetically modified wheat anywhere in the world.
Wheat acres have been declining in the U.S. for three decades, and yield growth and net returns per acre for wheat have consistently lagged behind corn and soybeans over the past decade.
The industry first sought to formally address this problem in a 2006 paper entitled “Addressing the Competitiveness Crisis in Wheat” and at a series of Wheat Summit meetings that followed. Many industry organizations are now supporting a goal of the National Association of Wheat Growers to increase national average wheat yields 20 percent from 2008 to 2018 through work on both biotechnology and non-biotechnology efforts.
The full paper is available online at www.wheatworld.org/issues/biotech.