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Economy playing a factor in genetically-modified wheat

By MIKE CORN

mcorn@dailynews.net

Economics ultimately will dictate how Kansas farmers adopt genetically modified wheat, a Sharon Springs farmer contends.

The National Association of Wheat Growers recently has launched a campaign to determine how well farmers will accept biotechnology in wheat.

In the past, there's been little interest shown in genetic modification of wheat because most farmers simply hold over wheat for seed for future crops. Buying commercially produced wheat seed is an expensive proposition, especially when there's been little incentive, such as higher yields.

That's the ultimate goal for the national wheat group, hoping to entice biotechnology companies to dedicate money and resources to developing wheat seed that will show increases in yield.

For David Schemm, vice president of trade group Kansas Wheat, one of the benefits might be in developing a wheat variety that is more drought tolerant -- making it adaptable to his area of the state where rainfall is significantly less than in other areas.

Schemm even went so far as to suggest a reduction in the number of land planted to wheat might be tied to a lack of advances in the crop, at least as far as compared to either corn or soybeans.

Generally, he thinks some farmers will adopt genetically modified wheat while others will want nothing to do with it.

That's generally the case with GMO corn and soybeans.

Schemm said he would be willing to adopt the new technology, especially if it can incorporate drought-tolerance.