Wheat field

Illegal genetically modified wheat found growing in an Oregon field “mysteriously” might have escaped from a USDA managed facility, reports Food Safety News.

The discovery of the wheat just a month ago set off a chain reaction of events including immediate restrictions on U.S. wheat from several countries that regularly import American wheat, including Korea, Japan and EU member states; and several farmers filed class action lawsuits against Monsanto, the manufacturer of the Roundup Ready wheat, on grounds of negligence. The farmers claim that the wheat discovery and subsequent stall of exports has hurt non-GMO wheat farmers’ sales.

Monsanto’s own investigation came up short, as the company claimed it stopped all field tests of the GMO wheat back in 2005 and that seeds were all properly destroyed. With few resources left, the unpopular biotech company claimed the source of the wheat in the Oregon farmer’s field was possibly the result of “sabotage,” since the wheat wasn’t well dispersed in the field, but rather growing in one isolated area. Then, just a few weeks after the wheat discovery, several thousand acres of genetically modified sugar beets growing in Oregon were also mysteriously destroyed, leading authorities to suspect foul play against biotech companies.

Now, the USDA-run National Center for Genetic Resource Preservation in Fort Collins, CO says it had the GMO wheat in storage as late as 2011. ” That means USDA is essentially investigating itself, since its Agriculture Research Service controls the Fort Collins unit,” reports Food Safety News.

The Center for Genetic Resource Preservation, which extends the viability of seeds, reportedly took in 43 containers of the GMO wheat between 2004–2005. But the wheat wasn’t finally destroyed until early 2012. In a statement received by Food Safety News, the USDA claimed, . “Whatever plant seed was sent to the facility has been incinerated. USDA continues to investigate the occurrence of GE wheat in Oregon.” The agency is now focusing on the Colorado facility and how the wheat seeds may have wound up on an Oregon farm.

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Image: elviskennedy