Wheat

After Monsanto’s genetically modified Roundup Ready wheat strain was discovered mysteriously  growing in an Oregon field, stalling exports of one of the most important U.S. crops, a Kansas farmer has filed a lawsuit against the biotech giant.

Ernest Barnes of Morton County, Kansas is the first farmer to file a lawsuit against Monsanto alleging that the mysterious GMO wheat threatens the sale of his non-GMO wheat strains. Having been pulled from testing in 2005, Monsanto claims it doesn’t know how the Roundup Ready wheat appeared in Oregon. The company has even suggested it was a sabotage move.

But whatever the reason for its appearance, the GMO wheat is not welcome in Japan, South Korea or the EU—all large importers of U.S. grown wheat, and U.S. wheat farmers aren’t too happy about the potential loss of sales. When the news broke about the GMO-contaminated wheat, several countries announced they’d stop importing U.S. wheat until safety could be guaranteed. The EU urged its member nations to conduct safety testing for GMO wheat before accepting any U.S. wheat.

“Monsanto has failed our nation’s wheat farmers,” said Barnes’ attorney Stephen Sussman, of Houston-based Sussman Godfrey LLP, in a statement. “Monsanto knew of the risks its genetically altered wheat posed and failed to protect farmers and their crops from those risks.”

Barnes is seeking at least $100,000, accusing Monsanto of negligence, gross negligence and creating a nuisance. Attorneys for Monsanto dismissed the allegations, saying the suit was filed prematurely and lacks any evidence to pin fault on Monsanto. The company claimed in a statement that the GMO wheat test program was closed out in 2005 in a “rigorous, well-documented” fashion and that none of the wheat should have survived. Monsanto abandoned its GMO wheat because of global pressures and concerns about the safety of genetically engineered food.

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Image: Edmund Garman