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Discovery of Oregon GMO wheat leads to cost questions

By Associated Press

LAST UPDATED: 02:36 p.m. HST, Jun 01, 2013

PORTLAND, Ore. » The discovery of genetically-modified wheat in an Eastern Oregon field has touched off a debate on the economics and safety of altering crop genetics.

Critics of genetic modification point to a study that estimates the wheat industry stands to lose $94 to $272 million annually if genetically-modified wheat is introduced.

The USDA announced the discovery of the Monsanto-owned strain on Wednesday. It led to Japan postponing a 25,000-ton order from a Portland grain shipper.

Unapproved genetically-modified rice found in a 2006 U.S. harvest led to plunging rice prices and payments from the offending company to American farmers, the Oregonian reported.

Monsanto tested glyphosate-resistant wheat in 16 states, including Oregon, from 1998 to 2005. The last Oregon trial was in 2001, according to the USDA, and Monsanto ultimately withdrew its application to have the modified variety approved after it became clear export markets didn't want it.

The company said it closed the testing program in a "rigorous, well-documented and audited" process that should have left no modified plants or seed remaining.

To ensure the plants didn't emerge after the testing, modified seeds were burned, buried six feet underground or shipped back to Monsanto, said Bob Zemetra, a crop scientist who worked on the Monsanto fields in Idaho.

Wide "no-plant" areas were maintained around test sites to prevent pollen movement from the modified wheat to other crops. Testing sites were checked two years after the trials for the presence of "volunteer" wheat plants that might have popped up.

Center for Food Safety attorney George Kimbrell said Monsanto may be liable for damages if Oregon wheat growers or shippers lose sales. Kimbrell said it's unreasonable to expect genetically-modified plants to be controlled, especially when they are being tested near commercial wheat operations.

"Nature finds a way," Kimbrell said.

Kimbrell and other critics say U.S. regulation of genetically modified crops is weak, with regulators relying on company data and inadequate monitoring of the plants' geographical spread, particularly after testing is complete.

U.S. Sen. Jeff Merkley of Oregon is trying to repeal the so-called "Monsanto Protection Act," a rider attached to a stopgap funding bill in March that strips federal courts of the ability to require more safety review for some genetically modified seeds.

Investigators have not publically ruled out any possibilities as to how the modified wheat entered a commercial field. Zemetra said accidental seed contamination is possible, but the questions of how and when may be impossible to answer.

"There's a lot of fear," he said. "And this isn't going to help, I can tell you that."

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akuboatcaptain wrote:
"... Monsanto ultimately withdrew its application to have the modified variety approved after it became clear export markets didn't want it..." which begs the question, why are they producing it in the first place? monsanto should be held liable to the fullest extent, if my mutt makes your papered dog pregnant, would you want to hold me liable?
on June 1,2013 | 04:47PM
Skyler wrote:
Monsanto has created the modern-day version of Pandora's box.
on June 1,2013 | 07:41PM
sailfish1 wrote:
They are producing it for the U.S. market.
on June 2,2013 | 12:40AM
sailfish1 wrote:
They produce it for the U.S. market.
on June 2,2013 | 12:44AM
sailfish1 wrote:
They produce it for the U.S. market.
on June 2,2013 | 12:46AM
Maneki_Neko wrote:
GNMO has really become a hot issue. More and more, folks are waking up to the asymmetrical power that Monsanto and its handful of giant agri-corps have in trying to steer a debate that involves public good. People want to know what is in the food supply. They want to see Monsanto and others placed under controls. This is simply one example of how things can go very wrong with this unchecked and possibly insidious technology.
on June 1,2013 | 05:09PM
BluesBreaker wrote:
I'm much more concerned about the asymmetrical power of Goldman Sachs and the other Wall St. investment banks, who've become too big for the Obama administration to prosecute.
on June 1,2013 | 05:29PM
BluesBreaker wrote:
Just yesterday the same Oregon paper ran this story: Hepatitis A outbreak in five states traced back to Oregon berry producer. At least 30 people have become ill since April 29, according to statements Friday from state and federal officials.

Two years ago, a strain of E. coli bacteria caused a serious outbreak of foodborne illness focused in northern Germany in May through June 2011. Epidemiological fieldwork revealed fresh vegetables were the source of infection. The outbreak affected people in Germany, Switzerland, Poland, the Netherlands, Sweden, Denmark, the UK, Canada[ and the USA. In all, 3,950 people were affected and 53 died, No one has ever become ill, much less died from GMO crops or the foods made from them, which have been on grocery shelves here for two decades.

It's organic food consumers need to be worried about. I won't eat the stuff. But to protect those who can afford to eat it and think it has some benefit, regulations and inspections need to be stepped up on the organic food industry, from field inspections to distributions centers..

on June 1,2013 | 05:23PM
BluesBreaker wrote:
I neglected to include this line from story in the Oregonian: The Food and Drug Administration said that people interviewed so far consumed Townsend Farms Organic Antioxidant Blend, which contains cherries, blueberries, pomegranate seeds, raspberries and strawberries.
on June 1,2013 | 05:26PM
Skyler wrote:
You can get E. coli from any type of contaminated fruit or produce - organic or otherwise. You do know that... right?
on June 1,2013 | 07:43PM
Maneki_Neko wrote:
More diversion.
on June 1,2013 | 06:41PM
BluesBreaker wrote:
The people want to see Monsanto placed under controls? What people? I haven't seen any public opinion research calling for Monsanto or any other business to be placed "under controls." What does that actually mean? Also, phrases like Calling the biotech ag companies unchecked and the traits they devellp to improve crop yields, require less water and pesticide "possibly insidious technology" belies a lack of familiarity with the biotech sector and the science involved.

It is one of the most heavily regulated industries, with announced and unannounced inspections and many, many requirements for documentation on each crop they introduce with a new trait. They can't sell any seed until it's been through an extensive federal review and approval process, not unlike getting a new drug approved by the FDA.

on June 1,2013 | 07:11PM
Bluewave wrote:
All of this is your opinion, as you have absolutely no data to document the effect on humans from consuming GMOs, so your opinion is worth its weight. On your other comment, far more people get food illness from consuming products coming from factory farms, ie industrial livestock operations, than from small farms or organic farms.
on June 1,2013 | 09:11PM
BluesBreaker wrote:
There are reams of data to back it up. Since you're supporting a false claim, why don't you produce some data to refute what I'm saying? You may be right about industrial livestock operations (I'm no fan), but that doesn't mean that organic farms should get a pas on regulations and inspections. By the way, you're not going to feed a large population with an agricultural sector made up of farms of two acres or less. The only way to feed the population of this country and the world is though large scale modern farming where economies of scale and a sufficient return on resources (the yield you get for the land and water resources dedicated).
on June 2,2013 | 10:59AM
st1d wrote:
hmmmm, the last time any gmo wheat was tested in oregon was 12 years ago. with no reports of rogue growths anywhere in the states the gmo wheat strain was tested or anywhere in any adjoining states. excess product was destroyed by fire and buried six feet deep or returned to monsato, again, with no reports in the last 12 years of rogue growths anywhere in any test or adjoining states.

so, we are to believe that gmo wheat suddenly appeared in an organized section of a field, not randomly spread out as would be expected with the wind acting as a vector. very fishy.

more likely, an anti gmo activist saved (stole) a sample of the strain and either planted it in the field or simply mailed the sample to the university using the farm as cover.

little did the anti gmo activist know that this would cause the collapse of certain wheat export markets and result in a careful investigation into this hoax report of gmo wheat appearing as organized growth in a seemingly random field.

on June 1,2013 | 06:41PM
Skyler wrote:
Pure speculation.
on June 1,2013 | 07:44PM
sailfish1 wrote:
"The company said it closed the testing program in a "rigorous, well-documented and audited" process that should have left no modified plants or seed remaining." Monsanto also says they did extensive tests to insure that GMO products are SAFE. Which lie are we to believe.
on June 2,2013 | 01:01AM
whs1966 wrote:
"U.S. Sen. Jeff Merkley of Oregon is trying to repeal the so-called "Monsanto Protection Act," a rider attached to a stopgap funding bill in March that strips federal courts of the ability to require more safety review for some genetically modified seeds." Which U.S. representatives and senators "attached" this rider, and how much did it cost Monsanto to purchase their actions?
on June 2,2013 | 05:28AM
st1d wrote:
Skyler wrote: Pure speculation.
on June 2,2013 | 03:19PM
sailfish1 wrote:
The farmers better keep a very accurate accounting of what they are growing (GMO or non-GMO). Otherwise foreign countries will stop buying American farm products completely. That will seal the coffin for American agriculture and cripple our foreign trade
on June 2,2013 | 06:53AM
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