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Biotech Japan United States

GMO Wheat Found Growing Wild In Oregon, Japan Suspends Import From U.S. 679

Posted by Soulskill
from the tired-of-putting-up-with-our-crop dept.
An anonymous reader writes "NPR reports that an Oregon wheat farmer found a patch of wheat growing where he did not plant. After RoundUp failed to kill the plants, he sent them to a lab for testing. Turns out the wheat in question is a GMO strain created by Monsanto but never sent to market. Oregon field trials for the wheat ended in 2001. 'Nobody knows how this wheat got to this farm. ... After all such trials, the genetically engineered crops are supposed to be completely removed. Also, nobody knows how widely this genetically engineered wheat has spread, and whether it's been in fields of wheat that were harvested for food.' The USDA is currently investigating and says there is no health-risk. Meanwhile, Monsanto has released a statement and Japan has suspended some wheat imports from the U.S. 'The mystery could have implications on wheat trade. Many countries around the world will not accept imports of genetically modified foods, and the United States exports about half of its wheat crop.'"
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GMO Wheat Found Growing Wild In Oregon, Japan Suspends Import From U.S.

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  • by Shavano (2541114) on Friday May 31, 2013 @09:26AM (#43871605)
    It's impossible to avoid cross contamination with wheat. Like most grasses, it releases its pollen into the wind and any plant of the same (or close enough) species it falls on will be a hybrid.
  • by Shavano (2541114) on Friday May 31, 2013 @09:32AM (#43871669)

    In this case, it's genuine contamination since it's a version they never released. So Monsanto did a field test, after which they were supposed to destroy all of the plants. Now a bunch of years they find that version out in the wild.

    If that's the case then we don't know if it is safe for human consumption, do we? We don't even know if it's environmentally safe. In fact, if Monsanto did destroy all of it and it came back then we're staring in the face of the first seeds of the Zombie Apocalypse: Zombie Wheat

    In this case, it's genuine contamination since it's a version they never released. So Monsanto did a field test, after which they were supposed to destroy all of the plants. Now a bunch of years they find that version out in the wild.

    If that's the case then we don't know if it is safe for human consumption, do we? We don't even know if it's environmentally safe. In fact, if Monsanto did destroy all of it and it came back then we're staring in the face of the first seeds of the Zombie Apocalypse: Zombie Wheat

    We don't know if any new wheat mutant is safe. At any time, nature could have come up with a highly toxic variety. People have kept crops safe for thousands of years by planting edible wheat and destroying the stuff that tasted bad or made people sick. The only danger is that it's possible for a company like Monsanto to produce and sell large amounts of bad crops before it has been thoroughly tested for safety.

  • by Sarten-X (1102295) on Friday May 31, 2013 @09:36AM (#43871723) Homepage

    But as it stands Monsanto is imune from liability.

    Except that's not actually what the legislation does, but hey... FUD is always good, right?

    Really, section 735 just stops the judicial system from interfering with the regulatory process [snopes.com]. This is a double-edged sword. On the one hand, the courts can't stop farmers from planting questionable crops. On the other hand, the courts can't be abused by farm-sponsored activists to slow down approval for crops that are tested and shown to be perfectly safe. Unfortunately, both of these situations happen routinely.

    The article you linked says that the provision "grossly protects biotech corporations such as the Missouri-based Monsanto Company from litigation". However, this statement is incredibly misleading. The provision protects Monsanto from the delays of litigation affecting their product's approval. They're still liable for anything they were last week, but now the court can't say "We don't know what's going on, so we're overruling the experts and banning the scary technology".

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday May 31, 2013 @09:51AM (#43871893)

    Monsanto has pubicly stated

    I guess that statement was withdrawn because it violated decency rules. ;-)

  • by OeLeWaPpErKe (412765) on Friday May 31, 2013 @10:02AM (#43872031) Homepage

    Whereas just randomly eating whatever you find in the wild is more reasonable ? Seriously.

    I dare you to read about one 100% natural thing found on wheat. Claviceps purpurea (also called the mother of wheat). This is what will happen to anyone who eats wheat found in nature, and what used to be a rather common "disease" (it's not a disease, it's more accuratly described as poisoning), known as "St. Anthony's fire" (ignis sacer in old medical texts), because the Anthony in question got the "St." part by caring very well for the victims of eating wheat and rye.

    Symptoms: Eating natural wheat infected with moederkoorn will induce severe vasoconstriction that doesn't go away. Net effect : blood leaves your extremities and doesn't return until the poison subsides. The effects of that are : every small scratch will experience gangrene, making amputation a necessity. Larger doses (not large at all by the way, a loaf of infected bread can generally be expected to contain more than the LD50 dose) causes hallucinations and attendant irrational behaviour, convulsions, and even death. Other symptoms include strong uterine contractions, nausea, seizures, and eventual unconsciousness. Needless to say, this is a VERY painful way to go.

    "Natural" wheat don't you love it ?

    Just wait until you hear about what apples can do.

  • by Svartalf (2997) on Friday May 31, 2013 @10:05AM (#43872081) Homepage

    In the cases of most of the lawsuits that Monsanto's filed it's been one of genuine contamination as well- but they sued anyway.

    The stuff's nowhere near as "controlled" as they'd like for you to believe.

  • by The Rizz (1319) on Friday May 31, 2013 @10:14AM (#43872195)

    Japan's reaction is ridiculous, and blatant protectionism. A tiny amount of GMO contamination in 2 billion bushels isn't a crisis.

    TFA stated that Japan blocked imports of some wheat - specifically, wheat from the area the GMO infection was found in. They're not halting all imports, just those that are most likely to be contaminated - and will likely increase orders from other parts of the US to make up for it.

  • by Teun (17872) on Friday May 31, 2013 @10:25AM (#43872367) Homepage
    Nothing wheaty about the fungus Sordariomycetes.

    It's a fungus that sometimes lives on wheat and some other grasses, it's not the wheat itself that's dangerous.
    In other words; you don't have a clue what you're talking about

  • by CowTipperGore (1081903) on Friday May 31, 2013 @10:31AM (#43872461)

    Japan's reaction is ridiculous, and blatant protectionism. A tiny amount of GMO contamination in 2 billion bushels isn't a crisis.

    How exactly is this blatant protectionism? Japan is the world's sixth largest importer of wheat and one of the US's largest customers. Japan's domestic wheat market accounts for 10% of their usage and there isn't much they can do to increase that. Your statement makes no sense.

    Not even the US has approved GMO wheat. Despite Monsanto's press release claiming that this particular gene has been tested and approved, this is not true in the organism in which it was found in Oregon. Monsanto's GMO wheat trials were canceled largely due to the world's largest wheat importers making clear that they would not accept GMO wheat.The EU has said it will begin testing US wheat and will reject any found to contain GMOs. Many nations still refuse to accept any GMO food imports.

  • by David_Hart (1184661) on Friday May 31, 2013 @10:57AM (#43872841)

    Stick.

    Oops... Sorry... That's not what farmers grow, that's what Monsato uses against farmers. I'm surprised that Monsato didn't immediately sue the farmer for illegally growing their product, even though he didn't plant it.

  • by Frobnicator (565869) on Friday May 31, 2013 @11:12AM (#43873059) Journal

    Too late.

    Many non-GMO plants have already become heavily contaminated by GMO strains.

    In the US, all three of canola, corn, and soybean are near-universally contaminated. You can no longer find non-GMO canola in Canada due to cross-contamination.

    GMO-contaminated wheat is rapidly joining the ranks.

  • by abigsmurf (919188) on Friday May 31, 2013 @11:16AM (#43873119)
    I believe there hasn't been a single incidence so far of a farmer being sued for genuine accidental pollination.

    The big headline grabbing court cases of poor innocent farmers have been one of two things:
    using or buying seed when they, or the seller have signed an aggreement saying that they will not use or sell and seeds from crops they bought from Monsato.
    Deliberate pollination followed by selective breeding to ensure their entire crop is basically growing Monsanto owned GM crop.
  • by the biologist (1659443) on Friday May 31, 2013 @12:06PM (#43873765)

    DDT leads to a thinning of eggshells in raptors, but not chickens/sparrows/crows/dugs/etc., via its metabolite DDE. There were LOTS of studies on this topic back before the general scientific consensus had been reached. Researchers stopped studying this topic because they lost interest in it.

    Bald Eagles eat primarily fish. The particular fish eat primarily other fish and bugs. Perhaps you're thinking of Golden Eagles, which do primarily eat mammals on the size range of rabbits and prairie dogs. I don't know what an "American Eagle" is.

  • by caseih (160668) on Friday May 31, 2013 @12:06PM (#43873775)

    That's simply not true. No one was ever sued because it was merely contamination. In the original case, the farmer discovered volunteers from a previous crop growing, and knowingly cultivated them and multiplied seed from these volunteers knowing they had the gene in them and then planted a crop from that. Even if you feel the patents should be bogus, the farmer knowing profited from unlicensed use of the patents. Besides the IP issues, there was also the issue of breach of contract. The contract with Monsanto stated very clearly that the farmer could not keep back any of the crop for the purpose of planting for seed, or selling for seed. I the court case, the farmer claimed as his defense that he never did any deliberate infringing. But the court found that the farmer was acting deliberately.

    Now, had the farmer simply let the volunteers grow and harvest them along with the rest of his canola on his farm and sold it into the food market, there'd have been no court case. I hope you can see the distinction here. One action is not only illegal but dishonest (due to the contract). The other action is not.

    The most recent case of RR soybeans, too, involved deliberate infringing.

  • by Urza9814 (883915) on Friday May 31, 2013 @02:27PM (#43875857)

    Not QUITE suing for contamination, but they HAVE tried to take legal action to affirm that they can't be sued by Monsanto once their crops get contaminated:
    http://www.osgata.org/osgata-et-al-v-monsanto/ [osgata.org]

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