Wednesday afternoon, officials with the US Department of Agriculture announced the detection of a non-approved strain of genetically modified (GMO) wheat on an 80-acre Oregon farm.
Bloomberg News reports:
A farmer attempting to kill wheat with Monsanto’s Roundup herbicide found several plants survived the weedkiller, the U.S. Department of Agriculture said today in a statement.
The Roundup Ready wheat is the same genetically engineered strain that was being tested from 1998 to 2005 by GM giant Monsanto - the world’s largest seedmaker. It was never approved for use by the USDA. In 2004, Monsanto announced that they were stopping efforts to commercialize the wheat after facing widespread opposition from farmers, food manufacturers, environmentalists and consumers.
Reuters reports that today's discovery may change the national debate over the labeling of GMO foods:
"I think it will have a significant impact," said Ronnie Cummins, national director of the Organic Consumers Association, which battled to keep genetically modified wheat out of the marketplace years ago.
The U.S. Senate last week rejected by a wide margin a measure to allow states to order labeling of food made with genetically engineered, or GE, crops. Cummins said the discovery of the rogue plants in Oregon would accelerate efforts to require GE food labels.
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"Virtually every major wheat-user in the world had already rejected this product before it even was allowed on the market," Juan Lopez of Friends of the Earth International said at the time. "This must be one of the most rejected products ever developed."
In addition to concerns about the safety of genetically modified seeds and their corruption of other crops, the USDA is worried about the discovery's "potential threat to trade with other countries that have concerns about genetically modified food," as the US exports nearly half of its wheat crop.
The USDA is investigating how it ended up in the field. Officials have not commented on how it may have gotten there.