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Illegal GMO wheat found in Oregon field

By Mary Clare Jalonick & Nigel Duara

Associated Press

POSTED:
LAST UPDATED: 08:49 a.m. HST, May 30, 2013



PORTLAND, Ore. » Field workers at an Eastern Oregon wheat farm were clearing acres for the bare offseason when they came across a patch of wheat that didn't belong.

The workers sprayed it and sprayed it, but the wheat wouldn't die. Their confused boss grabbed a few stalks and sent it to a university lab in early May.

A few weeks later, Oregon State wheat scientists made a startling discovery: The wheat was genetically modified, in clear violation of U.S. law, although there's no evidence that modifiedwheat entered the marketplace.

They contacted federal authorities, who ran more tests and confirmed their discovery.

"It looked like regular wheat ," said Bob Zemetra, Oregon State's wheat breeder.

No genetically engineered wheat has been approved for U.S. farming. U.S. Department of Agriculture officials said the wheat is the same strain as a genetically modified wheat that was legally tested by seed giant Monsanto a decade ago but never approved. Monsanto stopped testing that product in Oregon and several other states in 2005.

How the modified wheat made it from a private company's testing grounds to the Eastern Oregon commercial wheat field is a question investigators are trying to unravel in a mystery that could have global implications on the wheat trade in the U.S. and abroad.

Many countries around the world will not accept imports of genetically modified foods, and the United States exports about half of its wheat crop. Zemetra said the presence of the modified crop shows the need for testing.

"We'll need to develop or implement a method for testing some of the grain to see for the first year or two," Zemetra said.

An Oregon State wheat scientist and a graduate student did the first tests and discovered the likely presence of a gene that made the wheat resistant to herbicide.

The genetically-modified wheat grew on land that was supposed to be rotated, said Mark Flowers, Cereal Specialist at Oregon State University Extension. The field was in an off-year and in May 2013, it was supposed to be fallow and bare. Workers expected to kill off the few rogue plants that poked out of the ground.

But those plants resistant to the herbicide caught their attention.

"That's when this was noticed," Flowers said. "Some of the wheat did not die."

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 discovery also could have implications for organic companies, which by law cannot use genetically engineered ingredients in foods. Organic farmers have frequently expressed concern that genetically modified seed will blow into organic farms and contaminate their products.

U.S. consumers have shown increasing interest in avoiding genetically modified foods. There has been little evidence to show that modified foods are less safe than their conventional counterparts, but several state legislatures are considering bills that would require them to be labeled so consumers know what they are eating.

While most of the corn and soybeans grown in the United States are already modified, the country's wheat crop is not.

The 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.

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.

"Hopefully our trading partners will be understanding that this is not a food or feed safety issue," Scuse said.

Tim Fought in Portland, Ore., contributed to this report.







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Nonamesrs wrote:
Get a lawyer and sue Monsanto... time to turn the tables on this trickster... And this article's authors need to spend some time reading the literature on Monsanto and what its GMO products are doing to the health of Americans. GMOs interfere with gut bacteria (the same kind of thing they do to bugs... although they are designed to burst the stomach of bugs (Nice, huh?). What this same action seems to be doing in the human gut is to interfere with the absorption of vital nutrients which is why people who eat genetically modified foods are never satisfied and just want more and more and more. They are eating but being starved at the same time. Time to stand up everyone. Stand up against Monsanto and their GMO poisons. Time to save Hawaii and the rest of the planet from the criminal reach of Monsanto and its corporate backers, which unfortunately includes also the United States government.
on May 30,2013 | 09:53AM
kauai wrote:
"What this same action seems to be doing in the human gut is to interfere with the absorption of vital nutrients which is why people who eat genetically modified foods are never satisfied and just want more and more and more. They are eating but being starved at the same time." -- Sounds like a TV episode where the Tribbles gorged on contaminated quadrotriticale, yet starved to death.
on May 30,2013 | 10:53AM
Skyler wrote:
Anything that can withstand vast amounts of roundup isn't something I'd want to eat or buy for my family to eat. Dumping that much roundup into the earth doesn't sound like such a great idea for the health of the environment or the watershed below ground, either. I don't have an issue with those who don't care, but for those who do, let's keep the pressure on our politicians to at least label the frankenfoods.
on May 30,2013 | 11:45AM
serious wrote:
Let science figure it out. when I was a kid there were great arguments about chemical fertilizer vs manure. We need to feed the world--research it. Look at what the Asian countries use for fertilizer!!!!
on May 30,2013 | 12:07PM
Ronin006 wrote:
The censors at the SA have gone nuts. The following comment was sent for approval: GMO wheat is not a chemical. It is all natural wheat enhanced by the scientists to make it better. If you are opposed to scientists tinkering with food, you might want to check the long list of hybrid foods on the market today.
on May 30,2013 | 01:21PM
Ronin006 wrote:
GMO wheat is not a chemical. It is all natural wheat enhanced by the scientists to make it better. If you are opposed to scientists tinkering with food, you might want to check the long list of hybrid foods on the market today.
on May 30,2013 | 12:39PM
Pacej001 wrote:
What a profoundly important story, so important this wheat field, that it edged out any coverage of the IRS, Benghazi, or Department of Justice scandals.
on May 30,2013 | 01:35PM
st1d wrote:
hmmm, a strain of wheat that was pulled from production eight years ago suddenly appears on a farm. a farm that is not adverse to using quantities of spray to clear land. a sample of the alleged growth is sent for analysis and is identified as a gmo strain that was at least eight years removed from the market.

i would want to know if the farmer ever grew gmo, and if the farmer is for or against gmo.

strange how it appeared in an isolated growth area rather than randomly across the entire field.

sounds more like rogue gmo terrorists stole a sample and either planted it there or just used the farm story to plant the hoax report in the press.


on May 30,2013 | 09:04PM
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