July 29, 2016 — Genetically modified (GMO) wheat that was never approved for sale or commercial production has been found growing in a field in Washington state, which could trigger import bans and class actions.
A farmer discovered 22 wheat plants in an unplanted field, and found they were engineered to resist the weed-killer Roundup. Monsanto created the wheat to resist Roundup and tested it in field trials in the Pacific Northwest from 1998-2001, but it was never commercialized or approved.
The wheat that was found in the field was the same GMO strain as one found in Oregon in 2013, which prompted South Korea and several other Asian countries to suspend imports.
Today, South Korea has again suspended imports of American wheat and will halt distribution of wheat already in the country. More than half of the wheat imported into South Korea was grown in Washington. Earlier this week, South Korea also banned wheat from Argentina after finding GMO strains.
With American wheat prices already at records lows, finding banned GMO strains is bad news. If the problem is widespread, other countries may ban imports and send prices even lower.
In 2009, Syngenta released GMO corn to American farmers before it was approved in China. When the modified corn mingled with non-GMO corn, China banned all imports and sent prices plummeting. Corn farmers then sued Syngenta for economic losses.
And in 2011, Bayer paid a $750 million settlement to 11,000 American rice farmers who said the company’s GMO rice tainted crops and ruined export values. News of the contamination caused rice prices to drop about 14%.
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