GMO-giant Monsanto made headlines this week when genetically modified wheat was found in an Oregon crop. Genetically modified (GM) wheat is not approved for production or consumption, even in the U.S., though the company tested the strain in 10 states in the ’90s. Scientists speculate the plants found in Oregon may be the result of those tests, suggesting the American wheat industry could have been tainted by GMOs for almost a decade.
In the wake of the discovery, Japan, South Korea, and much of Europe—all major buyers of the American export—have ceased import and distribution pending testing. Much of Europe is strictly GMO-free, and over 60 countries require foods with GM ingredients to be labeled.
A Kansan wheat farmer from Morton County, Ernest Barnes, filed a lawsuit June 3 accusing Monsanto of “gross negligence,” and other American farmers have joined him.
Monsanto has provided tests to the EU, Japan, and South Korea to determine if the American wheat they have is genetically modified. So far, all the tests have been negative, but American farmers have already lost money.
This is not the first time rogue GMOs have caused a ruckus. In 2006 genetically modified rice entered the American rice crop with dire economic consequences: nearly $1.29 billion (USD) in lost exports. Eleven thousand farmers sued Bayer, the company responsible for the development of the genetically modified rice grain, and received a settlement of $750 million.
Sounding more like a WTF than a FTW? Wheat is a much larger U.S. export than rice. Japan, South Korea, and Taiwan all import huge quantities of white wheat, used to make noodles. Even this potentially brief halt in trade could have dire consequences for the wheat industry in the U.S., an even more significant loss of revenue and dire consequences for Monsanto’s corporate image.
The company recently gave up on a campaign lobbying the EU’s GM-free zones to change their laws banning modified crops, saying in a statement that Monsanto respects a region’s right to remain GMO-free. This gross negligence charge emphasizes just how little respect Monsanto has for both farmers and agriculture, and how little control they have over their seeds.
This time, though, there may be real consequences for Monsanto.