Washington State — As if organic farmers in the U.S. don’t have enough to contend with already, twenty-two illegal genetically modified wheat plants made by Monsanto were just found where they shouldn’t be.
Though demand for organic crops continues a boom cycle, those farmers who might make an honest income from exporting these crops face an ever-growing challenge to keep their plants from being cross-pollinated with GM varieties.
Export markets are already in a panic, but this isn’t the first time crop contamination has caused a problem.
Alfalfa exports to China were threatened just over a year ago when more than 400 areas throughout California, Idaho, and Washington, were found to have a 27 percent contamination rate. Of the numerous crops sampled, more than a quarter contained genetically-engineered alfalfa, which has Monsanto’s Roundup Ready-resistant gene. The USDA study which reported these findings admitted that “transgenic [GE] plants could spread transgenes to neighboring feral plants, and potentially to neighboring non-GE fields.”
This caused farmers’ crops to be rejected for export on a grand scale. The USDA did nothing about the fallout that transpired. Likely the same inaction will continue by government regulators as export markets for wheat voice their alarm over a new contamination threat.
The South Korean Ministry of Food and Drug Safety has asked the U.S. to provide details on the contamination of the wheat and the methods for inspection of food crops, while it suspends customs clearance for all wheat crops from the U.S. The E.U., Japan, and China are expected to respond with similar actions.
The Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) says that it has sampled sufficient areas for contamination and sees no reason to panic over a few illegal GM plants. APHIS announced on Thursday:
“APHIS has taken prompt and thorough action in response to this discovery and has no evidence of GE wheat in commerce . . . Due to the small number of affected plants and based on available information about MON 71700 and CP4-EPSPS, (the Food and Drug Administration) has concluded it is unlikely the wheat presents any safety concerns if present in the food supply as a result of this incident.”
Who, exactly, is responsible for the GM wheat contamination in Washington? The regulators stated in their notice that the genetically modified wheat is Monsanto’s. It is known as MON 71700, containing the CP4-EPSPS protein.
When GM wheat was found in 2013 — again, illegally — Monsanto said that all experimental genetically modified wheat plants and seed were destroyed.
This is the third discovery of illegal GM wheat in the U.S. in less than three years, but it is the habit of the multinational corporation to try to grab market share through the placement of GM crops.
More than a decade ago, Monsanto was accused of forcing GM soy on Argentinian farmers. Similar acts were perpetrated against Kenya with ‘drought resistant’ maize seeds, and Monsanto’s forced take-over of India’s cotton industry with a genetically engineered variety is now old news.
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