Renegade Wheat: Unapproved Monsanto Strain Found Stowing Away on Oregon Farm
By Shicana Allen
An Oregon farmer’s field was recently found to be harboring an unwelcome visitor: unapproved (therefore illegal) Roundup-Ready wheat. After discovering the genetically modified plants on his land, the farmer contacted Oregon State University, who then notified the USDA. That department’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service is investigating how the wheat ended up there, whether criminal wrongdoing was involved, and whether the genetic contamination is widespread. Roundup-Ready seeds (including wheat, corn, cotton, and soy) were developed by the St. Louis-based Monsanto Company to withstand direct application of their highly carcinogenic “Roundup” herbicide. Ordinarily, such plants would wither and die when coming into immediate contact with this toxic, glyphosate-based chemical, but the GM varieties can be sprayed directly and survive, remaining in the plant to be consumed by humans and animals. Even though the USDA has claimed that GMO wheat is safe to eat, and there is no evidence this unapproved crop has entered the marketplace, they released a statement that they “are taking this very seriously.” In India, a similar contamination crisis is occurring surrounding the use of Monsanto’s herbicide-resistant cotton seeds, called Roundup Ready Flex. Spreading illegally in at least three states, the illicit cultivation is also making a mockery of that country’s ability to regulate the use of GMO crops.
As a result of the Oregon contamination, Japan and South Korea, both major importers of wheat grown in the United States, have suspended further purchases, causing market shares to plunge. Others—including the European Union, China, and the Philippines—are closely monitoring the situation and also considering taking similar action. According to Toru Hisadome, a Japanese farm ministry official in charge of wheat trading: “We will refrain from buying western white and feed wheat effective today.” The European Commission, who is “following carefully the presence of this non-authorised GM wheat in Oregon in order to ensure that European consumers are protected from any unauthorized GM presence,” is urging its member states to test incoming shipments of the grain. Genetically modified crops, having long-faced opposition in Europe, are emerging as a major obstacle to negotiations over a long-awaited EU-US trade agreement. On the domestic front, consumer health organizations have demanded that an immediate moratorium be placed on open-air field testing of all genetically engineered crops.
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