US Department of Agriculture probes Oregon Monsanto GM wheat mystery

From The Guardian UK:  http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2013/jun/22/agriculture-oregon-monsanto-gm-wheat

Company cries foul over appearance of genetically modified wheat but scientist who found it doubts claim of sabotage

in Pendleton,
guardian.co.uk, Saturday 22 June 2013

It is a mystery that could cost the American farmer billions: how rogue genetically modified wheat plants turned up on a farmer’s field in Oregon.

The scientist who first discovered the renegade grain – by dipping a plastic strip into a tube of pulped plant, in order to check its genetics – believes the GM wheat could have entered America’s food supply undetected years ago, and could still be in circulation.

“There’s a lot of potential for how it could have got into the supply,” said Carol Mallory-Smith, a professor of weed sciences at Oregon State University. “It could have already been processed. It could have gone for animal feed somewhere or it could have gone for something else. It could have gone for storage.”

The Department of Agriculture, which is conducting a secretive investigation into the renegade GM wheat outbreak, maintains the GM wheat remained confined to a single 125-acre field on a single farm in eastern Oregon. Officials said there was no evidence the contaminated wheat was in the marketplace.

Monsanto, which manufactured the altered gene and conducted field trials of the GM wheat several years ago, strongly suggested in a conference call with reporters on Friday that the company was the victim of sabotage of anti-GM campaigners. Robb Fraley, Monsanto’s chief technology officer, said:

It’s fair to say there are folks who don’t like biotechnology and who would use this as an opportunity to make problems.

The real story is unlikely to emerge – if at all – until the publication of the final report by 18 Department of Agriculture investigators who are now scouring grain elevators, farmers’ fields and university research stations in eastern Oregon, hunting for a few grains of suspicious wheat.

The stakes are high for America’s wheat exports, with Japan and South Korea cancelling shipments; for Monsanto, which faces lawsuits from farmers for falling wheat prices and a consumer backlash against GM products; and for the US government, which must shore up confidence in the safety and integrity of the food supply.

Continue reading at:  http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2013/jun/22/agriculture-oregon-monsanto-gm-wheat

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