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Bloomberg reports that a field in Oregon has been found to be growing gene-altered wheat that was never approved by the US Department of Agriculture (USDA), and that the discovery "shows a failure of oversight that safety advocates say may endanger consumers and U.S. trading relationships.

"Scientists said the rogue wheat was a strain tested from 1998 to 2005 by Monsanto, the world’s largest seedmaker, which withdrew its application for approval amid concern buyers would avoid crops from the U.S., the world’s biggest wheat exporter."

The USDA, according to the story, "is investigating how the unapproved seeds slipped out and were growing nine years after St. Louis-based Monsanto ended its wheat program. The discovery may prompt foreign buyers uneasy with gene-altered crops to stop buying wheat from the U.S., according to critics including the Union of Concerned Scientists and the Center for Food Safety." And Monsanto says that "the Oregon discovery is isolated and shouldn’t concern consumers or trading partners."
KC's View:
Forgive me if I don't find what Monsanto says to not have a lot of credibility at this point.

The story notes that "the wheat discovered in Oregon was bred to resist glyphosate, the key ingredient of Roundup. The product permits farmers to kill unwanted plants without endangering the crop developed to resist it, which the company markets as Roundup Ready." And, of course, Monsanto says that "there are no food, feed, or environmental safety concerns associated with the presence of the Roundup Ready gene if it is found to be present in wheat."

But that's not really the point. The real issues are transparency, oversight and corporate arrogance.

I wonder how many of these fields there are out there. I wonder if we'll ever know about them all. And, I wonder how this will impact not just foreign sales of wheat, but also initiatives like the one begun by Whole Foods, which is demanding that manufacturers label any genetically modified ingredients that are in products it sells. This discovery raises a lot of questions, but does not provide a lot of answers.