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Washington farmers sue Monsanto over freak wheat

Washington wheat growers have joined other farmers around the country in suing Monsanto, which is investigating a strain of genetically modified wheat found in Oregon. (AP Photo/Boris Grdanoski)

Washington wheat growers are suing Monsanto over the genetically modified wheat discovered in Oregon.

They claim the discovery of the wheat in an Oregon field last week has damaged exports of their crops.

A similar suit in Kansas seeks class-action status on behalf of all growers of wheat who might have been harmed by the release of an unapproved product.

The kind of wheat grown in Washington is slightly different from Midwest wheat. The soft white wheat grown in the Northwest is popular with Asian markets, where they import about 90 percent of our state’s crop for noodles and crackers.

Genetically modified wheat discovered in Oregon is the same strain as one designed by Monsanto to be resistant to herbicides. It’s Roundup resistant. Nothing seems to kill the stuff.

Monsanto, based in St. Louis, used to be one of the top chemical companies in the U.S. until it spun off its chemical operations about a decade ago to focus on biotechnology. The company was among the first to genetically modify a plant cell.

Those in the biotech industry say plants can be engineered for faster growth, resistance to disease and insects, production of extra nutrients, and other beneficial purposes.

Critics say there haven’t been enough studies to know if genetically modified foods are safe.

Monsanto has called the emergence of the genetically modified strain an “isolated occurrence” and said it likely was the result of an accident or deliberate mixing of seeds.

It could even be sabotage.

Monsanto’s chief technology officer Robb Fraley told the AP, “We’re considering all options and that certainly is one of the options.”

The company says it has tested the original wheat stock and found it “clean.”

Monsanto also calls the lawsuits “premature,” but since the freak wheat was found, Japan suspended some imports. South Korea is increasing inspections.


Related: What’s in the food your family eats? New initiative to force GMO labeling


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