What's the Big Deal?
No genetically engineered wheat has ever been approved for U.S. farming. Most of the corn and soybeans grown in the United States are already modified, the country's wheat crop is not.
Unapproved genetically engineered wheat has been discovered in an Oregon field, a potential threat to trade with countries that have concerns about genetically modified foods. The Agriculture Department said Wednesday that the genetically engineered wheat is safe to eat and there is no evidence that modified wheat entered the marketplace. But the department is investigating how it ended up in the field, whether there was any criminal wrongdoing and whether its growth is widespread.
"We are taking this very seriously," said Michael Firko of the Agriculture Department's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service.
A farmer discovered the genetically modified plants on his farm and contacted Oregon State University, which notified USDA early this month, Firko said.
- Via USA TODAY
How did this happen?
Tests confirmed that the plants were a strain developed by Monsanto to resist its Roundup Ready herbicides and were tested between 1998 and 2005. At the time Monsanto had applied to USDA for permission to develop the engineered wheat, but the company later pulled its application.
The Agriculture Department said that during that seven-year period, it authorized more than 100 field tests with the same 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.
During that testing and application process, the Food and Drug Administration reviewed the variety found in Oregon and said it was as safe as conventional varieties of wheat. - Via Washington Post
In a statement issued Wednesday, Monsanto noted that this is the first report since its program was discontinued.
“While USDA’s results are unexpected, there is considerable reason to believe that the presence of the Roundup Ready trait in wheat, if determined to be valid, is very limited,” the company said.
USDA officials confirmed they have received no other reports of discoveries of genetically modified wheat. Michael Firko of the Agriculture Department’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service and Acting Deputy Secretary of Agriculture Michael T. Scuse said they have already been in touch with international trading partners to try and assuage any concerns.
Far Reaching Effects
The unapproved genetically modified wheat found growing in the United States is threatening U.S. exports of the world's biggest traded food commodity. Japan is stopping a purchase against a backdrop of high consumer sensitivity to gene-altered food.
Japan cancelled a tender offer to buy U.S. western white wheat, while other top Asian wheat importers South Korea, China and the Philippines said they were closely monitoring the situation.
"We will refrain from buying western white and feed wheat effective today," Toru Hisadome, a Japanese farm ministry official in charge of wheat trading, told Reuters.
The world's biggest wheat importer, Egypt, said it had no fears yet over supplies. The European Union is preparing to test incoming shipments, and will block any containing GM wheat. Chicago Board of Trade wheat futures were down around 1 percent.
Is GMO Contamination Out of Control?
Drug and chemical giant Bayer AG has admitted that there is no way to stop the uncontrolled spread of its genetically modified crops.
"Even the best practices can't guarantee perfection," said Mark Ferguson, the company's defense lawyer in a recent trial. Two Missouri farmers sued Bayer for contaminating their crop with modified genes from an experimental strain of rice engineered to be resistant to the company's Liberty-brand herbicide.
The contamination occurred in 2006, during an open field test of the new rice, which was not approved for human consumption. According to the plaintiffs' lawyer, Don Downing, genetic material from the unapproved rice contaminated more than 30 percent of all rice cropland in the United States.
"Bayer was supposed to be careful," Downing said. "Bayer was not careful and that rice did escape into our commercial rice supplies."
The plaintiffs alleged that in addition to contaminating their fields, Bayer further harmed them financially by undermining their export market. When the U.S. Department of Agriculture announced the widespread rice contamination, important export markets were closed to U.S. producers. A report from Greenpeace International estimates the financial damage of the contamination at between $741 million and $1.3 billion. Bayer claimed that there was no possible way it could have prevented the contamination, insisting that it followed not only the law but also the best industry practices. The jury disagreed, finding Bayer guilty of carelessness in handling the genetically modified crops. The company was ordered to pay farmers Kenneth Bell and Johnny Hunter $2 million.
"This is a huge victory, not only for Kenny and me, but for every farmer in America who was harmed by Bayer's LibertyLink rice contamination," Hunter said.
According to Hunter, the company got "the wake-up call they deserved." Bayer is still being sued by more than 1,000 other farmers from Missouri, Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas.
Via Natural News
Response from Organic Consumer Association
Genetically Modified Wheat is a Threat to Farmers
- We are seeing massive problems with the genetic contamination from neighboring farms with GM corn, soybeans and canola. Most of the soybean supply in the U.S. is already contaminated with genetically modified seeds. Many organic and conventional corn farmers are losing markets because their crops are testing positive for GM traits. Many experts have said that it is next to impossible to find non-GM canola in Canada because of this genetic trespass. Wheat pollen is even more pervasive than that of canola.
- All these new GM crops are patented, which prohibits farmers from planting the seeds in subsequent years. This means that they must purchase the patented seed every year from the seed company. Monsanto sells 90% of all GM seeds in use today. This corporation is currently taking legal action against hundreds of farmers for saving seed, but many of these farmers have not planted Monsanto's seed; their crops have GM traits only because of contamination from GM pollen. Percy Schmeiser, a Canadian canola grower, was sued by Monsanto and lost his case over this very same issue. His case is currently under appeal before the Supreme Court of Canada.
Genetically Modified Wheat is a Threat to the Economy
- GM wheat is a mortal threat to the U.S. wheat market. It is estimated that the loss of markets for GM corn, soy and canola has reached over 300 million dollars per year because the European Union will not purchase GM crops. The U.S. is the world's leading wheat exporter. Many foreign companies have stated that they will not purchase GM wheat or any wheat if GM wheat is grown in the region. Korea is the fifth largest purchaser of U.S. wheat exports. The Korean Flour Mills Industrial Association has stated that they want GM-free certification of any hard red spring wheat they purchase. The price of spring wheat could drop by one-third if a GM variety is introduced commercially into Montana or North Dakota, according to agricultural economist Dr. Robert Wisner of Iowa State University. This will spell doom for North American wheat growers even if they decide to not plant GM wheat themselves.
- GM crops are not required to go through any type of independent safety peer review to determine if they are safe for either human consumption or the environment.
Read more at Organic Consumer Association
What you Can Do
Vote with your dollars, don't buy GMO food. Whenever possible, support local sustainable growers. Not only will you be getting nutritious wholesome food, you'll also be helping your community by keeping your dollars close to home!