Created on 14 June 2013
(EUGENE, OR) – Earlier this month it was reported that an unapproved genetically engineered wheat has been discovered in an Oregon field, and is proving itself to be a threat to our international trade with countries that have concerns about genetically modified foods.
The USDA is actively investigating how it is that the GMO wheat ended up in the field, and are trying to determine whether there was any criminal wrongdoing as well as how widespread the damage to the industry may prove to be.
A farmer discovered the genetically modified plants on his farm and contacted Oregon State University, which notified USDA earlier this month. USDA officials declined to speculate whether the modified seeds blew into the field from a testing site or if they were somehow planted or taken there, and they would not identify the farmer or the farm’s location. The Oregon Department of Agriculture said the field is in the eastern part of the state but have yet to reveal anything more than that at this time.
In 1997 tests began by Monsanto to develop a strain of wheat that is resistant to the company’s popular pesticide, Roundup. The result of this is called “Roundup Ready”. The GMO wheat was field tested in 16 states between the years 1998 thru 2005, including fields owned by CoMa Farms in Aberdeen, according to the lawsuit. At the time Monsanto had applied to USDA for permission to develop the engineered wheat, but the company later pulled its application before approval or denial hit the table. Roundup is said to contain the chemical “Agent Orange” which became well known and scrutinized during the Viet Nam era and to which many veterans are receiving disability compensation from that war to date because of consequences for exposure to the chemical.
The discovery of GMO wheat is proving to have some far-reaching consequences for the U.S. wheat industry already as it is as and the discovery of the Roundup Ready wheat growing in Oregon in May quickly prompted Japan to suspend some wheat imports from the pacific northwest already and may trigger more countries to do the same.
If the growth of the GMO wheat turns out to be far spread it could literally ruin America’s trade industry as far as not only wheat but food in general. Many countries around the world flat will not accept imports of genetically modified foods period, which this reporter applauds, yet the United States exports between 50 to 90% of its wheat crop annually with the great majority coming from the state of Oregon specifically because they’re prided for their “Wheat Belt”.
While most of the corn and soybeans grown in the United States are already genetically modified whether realized or not, the country’s wheat crop is not and because of it, remains one of the nations top exports food-wise as far as profits are concerned.
Apparently between 1998 and 2005, Monsanto had applied to USDA for permission to develop the engineered wheat, but the company later pulled its application when health concerns as well as consequences arose globally about GMO based food production.
The Agriculture Department said that during that seven-year period, it authorized more than 100 field tests with the same GMO glyphosate-resistant wheat variety. Tests were conducted in in Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Kansas, Minnesota, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oregon, South Dakota, Washington and Wyoming but they had suspended a few years aog, prompting curiosity as to why it’s suddenly emerging uncontrolled this season.
Idaho farmers, represented by a Boise law firm, filed the federal lawsuit on Friday June 8th contending that Monsanto’s development of Roundup Ready wheat resulted in increased production costs and lowered prices because the GMO wheat is likely to infiltrate the non-genetically engineered wheat supply via cross-pollination with non-GMO strains. They are asking for compensatory and punitive damages in an amount to be determined at trial, and they want a judge to order Monsanto to decontaminate the farmland and all the transportation and harvesting equipment from all affected farmers.
The farmers contend that Monsanto obviously failed to take steps to make sure the genetically engineered plants didn’t contaminate regular wheat through cross-pollination, mixing of seeds or other means or it wouldn’t be found among the crops today. Because the wheat industry uses a system that gathers and commingles wheat from thousands of farms for sales and shipping, the farmers contend Monsanto should have known that it would be virtually impossible to prevent the Roundup Ready wheat from infiltrating the non-GMO wheat supply.
No genetically engineered wheat has been approved for U.S. farming period, “Monsanto knew, or should have known, that the existence of genetically-engineered wheat — commingled with the general wheat supply — would cause a significant threat to the wheat export market, and that such a situation could involve huge disruptions in the wheat trade while imposing additional costs on U.S. wheat farmers and specifically Pacific Northwest soft white wheat farmers. These costs eventually would detrimentally impact worldwide prices for Pacific Northwest soft white wheat, causing significant financial damage to wheat farmers,” attorney Benjamin Schwartzman wrote in the lawsuit.
Already a handful of lawsuits in addition to Idaho’s have been filed in other courts around the country over the same issue. The lawsuit in Boise’s U.S. District Court was filed last Friday by “Behrend, Behrend & Knittel Farms” and the “CoMa Farms”, both of Aberdeen, and also from “County Line Farms” in American Falls. The Idaho farmers are asking for class-action status on behalf of thousands farmers of soft white wheat in Idaho, Oregon, Washington and other states.