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Is the Monsanto Oregon GM Wheat Incident Sabotage? - 25 June 2013

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Tuesday 25th June 2013.
Sarah Mikesell - TheCropSite Senior Editor

Sarah Mikesell
Senior Editor


Is the Monsanto Oregon GM Wheat Incident Sabotage?

Greetings! Last week, I was in Sheffield, England and had the opportunity to experience their cooler, wet summer. But I have to admit, I’m basking in the heat and humidity of the Chicago suburbs and it feels great! It’s perfect corn and soybean growing weather.

Since USDA announced at the end of May that they were investigating wheat plants that survived applications of glyphosate in an Oregon field, I've been following the scant amount of information that's come out.   

The Oregon farmer sent surviving “volunteer” wheat plants found in his field to Oregon State University, which confirmed the glyphosate-tolerant trait.

Monsanto’s chief technology officer, Robb Fraley, recently said that the investigation suggests intentional contamination. The pattern looks as if someone had entered the field and sewn seeds mechanically or by hand when the field was not being farmed.

The volunteer wheat appeared in “patches or clumps” and “appeared here and there in the field.” However, he said wheat is generally planted uniformly throughout a field, so if the farmer’s seed supply is contaminated, the offending plants would appear in a uniform fashion.

“None of standard farming practices are consistent with, or can explain, a smattering in only one percent of a field or in patches or clumps,” he said. “In our view the finding is suspicious.”

APHIS authorized more than 100 field tests with the glyphosate-resistant wheat trait from 1998 through 2005 in several states. The last approved field trial of Roundup Ready wheat in Oregon was in 2001.

“The CP4 event appearing suddenly after 12 years, out of nowhere, in a single field, in the state of Oregon, is highly suspicious,” Fraley said.

The CP4 gene that causes the CP4 event in wheat is the same gene that appears in Monsanto’s Roundup Ready corn, soybean, sugar beets and canola. Fraley noted Japan, South Korea and the European Union are in the process of validating the same testing method for use in grain shipments.

No genetically engineered strain of wheat is approved for the US or global markets.

The wheat export market is worth $8 billion, and soft white wheat is only 15 per cent of the total market. But what's really at stake is the integrity and perceived safety of US agricultural products.

The top buyer of American wheat, Japan, had already suspended import tenders for western white wheat. South Korea plans to test all US wheat and wheat flour upon arrival.

Fraley noted that the situation is extremely isolated.

“If someone has the criminal intent and wants to break into a field, it doesn’t matter if it’s sugar beets or wheat,” Fraley said. “If someone is prepared to break the law and enter a field to destroy plants it’s also possible they would have entered a field to collect plants.”

Monsanto has said they continue to believe that the Oregon farmer is a victim in this situation and respect his decision to remain anonymous.

To read more, click here.

Have a great week!

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