As recently reported by CNBC1 and other media outlets,2, 3 an unapproved strain of genetically engineered (GE) wheat has been found growing on a farm in Oregon. The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced the anomaly on May 29.
As it turns out, the Roundup Ready (i.e. glyphosate-resistant) strain of wheat was developed by Monsanto and field tested in 16 different states between 1998 and 2005.
Plans to bring it to market were abandoned due to opposition against genetically engineered wheat. Many countries importing US wheat do not permit GE ingredients in their food, or require such foods to be labeled.
About 50 percent of the wheat grown in the US is exported. The finding of illegal GE wheat contamination may dramatically alter this ratio however.
Japan and Korea has already suspended orders of US wheat4 in response to the findings. The EU has ordered member states to test imported wheat for contamination.
The economic impact to wheat farmers could be in the hundreds of millions of dollars. Washington and Kansas wheat farmers have already filed lawsuits against Monsanto due to the immediate harm this disaster has created.
The effects will not be limited to wheat, as importing countries question what other genetic experiments may have escaped the lab and contaminated natural varieties. Monsanto has clearly stated they will leverage the fact they followed government protocol and therefore cannot be held accountable for this mess. The biotech industry is also defending Monsanto, suggesting ‘activists’ must have set them up.
The biotech industry has so strongly infiltrated and influenced the government agriculture and ‘health’ agencies they should be considered subsidiaries.
How Did Unapproved GE Wheat Survive More than a Decade After Last Field Trial?
Monsanto and other biotech companies have repeatedly promised that their creations will not escape its intended confines. Today, after hundreds of farmers have been sued for patent infringement after Monsanto’s patented seeds were found growing where they weren’t supposed to, we know how ridiculous such assertions are.
The present situation is even more disturbing, as it shows that field trials alone might have the potential to cause permanent cross-contamination. During a seven-year period, between 1998 and 2005, field tests were conducted in Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Kansas, Minnesota, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oregon, South Dakota, Washington and Wyoming.5
Monsanto resumed field trials of Roundup Ready wheat last year, planting 150 acres in Hawaii. Furthermore, according to a report by Bloomberg:6
“Another permit allows Monsanto to test wheat with multiple traits, including Roundup tolerance, on 300 acres in North Dakota this year. Monsanto said May 29 in a statement that it ended its program to develop Roundup Ready wheat nearly a decade before the USDA announced this week that the experimental crop was discovered growing on an Oregon farm. The Roundup Ready wheat in the new field trials is ‘an entirely different event’ than the escaped crop reported by the USDA, Monsanto said.
‘This research is still in the very early phases and at least a decade away from commercial approval,’ Lee Quarles, a Monsanto spokesman, said in an e-mail response to questions today. ‘The Roundup Ready wheat project that is the subject of the USDA report was previously discontinued.’”
So, by their own admission, Monsanto agrees that the presence of GE wheat in Oregon is not due to any recent activity on their part, but must be the result of escaped wheat going back to field tests well over a decade ago! I wonder if they even realize how significant such an admission is as it seems to be proof positive that they have no control over what happens to their products. No GE wheat seed was ever permitted to be sold, and the last field trial in Oregon was in 2001. As to how the farmer made the discovery in the first place, NPR7 reports:
“About a month ago, a farmer in eastern Oregon noticed some wheat plants growing where he didn’t expect them, and they didn’t die when he sprayed them with Roundup. The farmer sent samples of these curious plants to Carol Mallory-Smith, a scientist at Oregon State University who has investigated other cases in which genetically engineered crops spread beyond their approved boundaries. She found that this wheat was, in fact, genetically engineered. She passed samples on to the US Department of Agriculture, which confirmed her results.”
Good Going Monsanto… US Wheat Exports Now at Risk
In 2006, traces of unapproved genetically engineered rice were discovered in the American rice harvest. This led to several countries banning US grown rice and exporters lost millions of dollars as a result. Bayer CropScience, the company responsible for developing and field testing the GE rice ended up agreeing to pay $750 million to settle a class action lawsuit brought by 11,000 American rice farmers.
The export market for wheat is far larger than that for rice, and while Steve Mercer with the US Wheat Associates has gone on record saying that “there’s no indication” that wheat exports will be affected in a similar fashion, his statements appear to have been premature. As mentioned earlier, Japan—frequently the top export customer of US wheat—has already canceled orders of white wheat originating in the Pacific Northwest8 and other importers are keeping a close eye on the matter. Japan also canceled orders on some feed-grade wheat.
According to Mercer, the GE wheat issue is confined to “a few isolated plants growing in eastern Oregon.” Or is it?
The day after the USDA’s announcement, the organic food blogger and activist Vani, aka Foodbabe, reported9 that one of her British readers had sent her a photo of the label on a Kraft Mac & Cheese box imported from the US, and in addition to informing buyers of the presence of artificial colors linked to attention disorders in children, the label clearly states that it’s made with genetically modified wheat.
Now… since GE wheat is not, and never was, approved for commercial planting in the US, how could Kraft’s Mac & Cheese, manufactured in the US, be made with GE wheat? Vani notes: “It is uncertain at this time who places this label on products once they are imported into the UK. And this is something I am still investigating.” Lynne Galia, a spokesperson for Kraft Foods, released the following10 statement to MSN News:
“Genetically engineered (GE) wheat is not available for commercial use. We do not use genetically engineered wheat in KRAFT Mac & Cheese or any other Kraft product. So anyone who is saying or implying there is GE wheat in KRAFT Mac & Cheese or any other Kraft product is wrong. In addition, we don’t export Mac & Cheese to the UK and have no authorized distributor there. The company that has applied this sticker is not authorized by Kraft to sell our products. They are not a customer of Kraft. They are getting the product from someone else and reselling our product in the UK. We’re continuing to investigate, but because we are not dealing with authorized distributors of our products, we may not get to the bottom of this issue anytime soon.”
Make no mistake about it. The USDA recognizes what a major problem this could be for the US economy. As much as 90 percent of wheat grown in Oregon is sent overseas,11 and in 2011, the state’s wheat crop sold for $492 million. According to US Wheat Associates, US wheat exports totaled $8.1 billion in 2012. 12
Many if not most countries do not permit GE wheat (along with many other genetically engineered crops), so this contamination is going to have massive implications for wheat growers. All the while, Monsanto just shrugs and says they don’t know how their product escaped their well-controlled labs, and the USDA and FDA backs Monsanto up by pretending to know there are absolutely no potential safety issues involved. Truly, the situation is unacceptable.
As Worldwide Activism Against Monsanto Increases, US Government Shields Big Biotech
May 25 saw activists rallying against Monsanto in 36 countries across the globe. In Europe, activists are concerned that the company is trying to overturn EU disclosure laws, and many in the US hit the streets to voice their opinion about the “Monsanto Protection Act” that was silently slipped into the 2013 Federal Appropriations Bill. This is an act that gives biotech immunity from federal prosecution for planting illegally approved GE crops.
Mainstream media took little notice of this global phenomenon. Perhaps it had something to do with the fact that just two days prior to the worldwide protests, US senators overwhelmingly voted against the right of states to pass their own GMO labeling laws.13 Best to keep news of Monsanto’s poor image at bay while legislators are hard at work protecting the beast’s rights to continue its wanton slaughter of human rights.
The Sanders amendment No. 965 to the farm bill (introduced by Senator Bernie Sanders) would have supported the existing right of states to enact their own laws with regards to GMO labeling. So far this year, 26 states have introduced state labeling laws. Yet on May 23, the US senate voted down the Sanders amendment 71-27. As reported by the Organic Consumers Association:
“Monsanto and the Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA) have admitted privately that they’ve ‘lost the battle’ to stop GE food labeling at the state level, now that states are aggressively moving forward on labeling laws.
On May 14, Maine’s House Ag Committee passed a GMO labeling law. On May 10, the Vermont House passed a labeling bill, 99-42, despite massive lobbying by Monsanto and threats to sue the state. And though Monsanto won a razor-thin victory (51 percent to 49 percent) in a costly, hard fought California GMO labeling ballot initiative last November, biotech and Big Food now realize that Washington State voters will likely pass I-522, an upcoming ballot initiative to label GE foods, on November 5. ‘If Monsanto can’t stop states from passing laws, then the next step is a national preemptive measure,’ Cummins said. ‘And all signs point to just such a power grab.'”
Protecting State Rights Is Not an Option—It’s a MUST!
Preserving state rights to label genetically engineered foods is absolutely imperative at this juncture. It’s the ONLY way to preserve the constitution and protect ourselves from a corrupt, fascist government controlled by industrial lobbying interests.
Now, the Congressional House Agricultural Committee readies to vote on an amendment to the Federal Agriculture Reform and Risk Management Act of 2013, which would lend support to a potential nullification of states’ rights to label GMOs. The amendment in question, the King Amendment No. 71 (Protect Interstate Commerce Act), introduced by Representative Steve King (R-Iowa) and adopted during the House Agriculture Committee’s markup of H.R. 1947, is guised as a bill to protect interstate commerce by barring states from imposing their own animal-welfare standards on “agricultural products” brought in from other states.
However, the provision is so broad and “agricultural products” defined in such sweeping terms that it could also prevent a wide variety of state laws from being enforced, including preventing states from enforcing GMO labeling requirements.
This is because the act would bar a state from imposing its own laws on foods brought in from another state—in order to protect interstate commerce, see? Take Maine as an example. While Maine may have a law calling for foods containing genetically engineered ingredients to be labeled when sold in Maine, this law would be null and void if the food in question comes from a state that does not have such a law… As Wayne Pacelle with the Humane Society recently wrote:14
“King’s goal is to overturn every voter-approved animal welfare ballot measure relating to agriculture – Prop 2 in California (banning extreme confinement crates for pigs, veal calves, and laying hens), Prop 6 in California (forbidding the sale of horses for slaughter for human consumption), Prop 204 in Arizona (banning veal and gestation crates), and Amendment 10 in Florida (outlawing gestation crates). The amendment could also nullify six other state bans on gestation crates, horse slaughter bans in a half-dozen other states, the comprehensive animal welfare standards adopted by the Ohio Livestock Care Standards Board, and a raft of anti-downer laws and other animal protection laws designed to shield farm animals from abuse and extreme confinement.
But the reach of his amendment goes further. It seeks to nullify every state, county, or local law that creates any standard or condition relating to an agricultural production activity – so we’d have no state laws for agricultural facilities relating to worker rights, animal welfare, environmental protection, or public health. It’s hard to overstate how sweeping and far-reaching the King amendment is.”
Tell Your Congressman to REJECT the King Amendment!
A call to action has been issued by the Organic Consumers Association:15
“The Organic Consumers Association (OCA) today called on all members of Congress to reject the King Amendment and any other amendments or riders to the 2013 Farm Bill that would take away states’ rights to enact laws requiring the labeling of foods containing genetically modified organisms (GMOs). The OCA also launched a national petition asking consumers to tell their Congress members that if they pass a Farm Bill with the King Amendment, or other similar riders or amendments, their constituents will vote – or throw – them out of office.
‘If the King Amendment survives, and is included in the 2013 Farm Bill, it will wipe out more than 150 state laws governing agriculture, food and food safety,’ said Ronnie Cummins, National Director of the OCA. ‘The biotech industry knows that it’s only a matter of time before Washington State, Vermont, Maine, Connecticut and other states pass GMO labeling laws. Rather than fight this battle in every state, Monsanto is trying to manipulate Congress to pass a Farm Bill that will wipe out citizens’ rights to state laws intended to protect their health and safety.'”
Keep Fighting for Labeling of Genetically Engineered Foods
While California Prop. 37 failed to pass last November, by a very narrow margin, the fight for GMO labeling is far from over. The field-of-play has now moved to the state of Washington, where the people’s initiative 522, “The People’s Right to Know Genetically Engineered Food Act,” will require food sold in retail outlets to be labeled if it contains genetically engineered ingredients.
Remember, as with CA Prop. 37, they need support of people like YOU to succeed. Prop. 37 failed with a very narrow margin simply because we didn’t have the funds to counter the massive ad campaigns created by the No on 37 camp, led by Monsanto and other major food companies. Let’s not allow Monsanto and its allies to confuse and mislead the people of Washington and Vermont as they did in California. So please, I urge you to get involved and help in any way you can.
- No matter where you live in the United States, please donate money to these labeling efforts through the Organic Consumers Fund.
- Sign up to learn more about how you can get involved by visiting Yeson522.com!
- For timely updates on issues relating to these and other labeling initiatives, please join the Organic Consumers Association on Facebook, or follow them on Twitter.
- Talk to organic producers and stores and ask them to actively support the Washington initiative.
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