Wheat field

A known target for anti-GMO activists, concerned consumers and health and environmental advocacy groups, biotech giant Monsanto claims it has been the victim of sabotage after its GMO wheat was found mysteriously growing in Oregon.

The GMO wheat variety found on a farmer’s field was a strain tested by Monsanto between 1997 and 2005 before being pulled, and, says the company, properly destroyed. Monsanto claims the decision to stop field trials came as a result of hesitation and concerns from some of the country’s biggest customers of exported U.S. wheat, many of whom have bans or restrictions on genetically modified foods. The U.S. is one of the world’s leading exporters of wheat.

Monsanto has urged the USDA to investigate the possibility of sabotage, particularly since the GMO wheat was discovered only in a small portion of the field rather than dispersed throughout. Robert Fraley, Monsanto’s chief technology officer told reporters on a call that isolated location was indicative of intentional contamination, or sabotage.

Several farmer lawsuits have emerged in the wake of the wheat discovery. Farmers have sued Monsanto seeking damages, citing the company’s negligence contributed to the appearance of the GMO wheat, which has slowed exports to countries including Japan and North Korea as well as some EU member states.

Just weeks after the wheat was discovered, Oregon’s FOX news affiliate, KPTV, reported on two separate incidents where 6,500 acres of genetically modified sugar beets were destroyed in Southern Oregon. More than one thousand plants owned by biotech firm Syngenta were intentionally targeted by “an unknown person or group” and another 5,000 plants were destroyed on another property.

No groups have claimed responsibility for the destruction of the GMO sugar beets, but the FBI suspects anti-GMO activists were behind the move. No connection has been made with the GMO wheat discovery and the sugar beet destruction.

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Image: Elias Daniel