Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Genetically Engineered Wheat Supply

There has been much discussion in recent news over the genetically engineered wheat crop that was discovered in Oregon last month, despite the test crop strain being shut down some 12 years ago. The test subject was created by Monsanto Company to be resistant to its best selling Roundup herbicide. According to the New York Times, it's not uncommon for crops to be genetically altered for various reasons, and they reference the 1998 Aventis CropScience strain of corn called StarLink. StarLink was shut down after it was discovered that it could trigger allergic reactions in some people. It was banned to keep it out of the food processing chain. Yet, it was found in corn taco shells which led to a major recall in September of 2000. Also in 2002, there was a complaint by Saskatchewan organic farmers that gene transfers from canola, which had been engineered to tolerate herbicides had then contaminated their fields. Which made it impossible to certify their canola as wholly natural......costing the group some $10 million dollars. 

Because of the find of this genetically engineered wheat crop in Oregon, foreign nations such as Japan, South Korea and Taiwan have put a halt to the purcahse of American wheat products which is only going to add to the cost of already all-time high wheat prices. Due to this find, on a single 125 acre farmstead in Oregon, many farmers and anti-GMO activists have come together and filed a lawsuit against Monsanto for their supposed role in the evolution of this wheat field. Monsanto has cried sabotage, considering this strain of wheat has not been produced or tested since at least 2005. The lawsuit cites not only economic loss, but environmental and consumer health concerns as well.

The great debate begins here: engineering for higher yield and controllable crop versus cost and the effect that the gene altered products have on our health, surrounding vegetation, and future fields. It should be stated that there are many varieties of GE (genetically engineered) corn, soybeans and other crops that are widely grown with no known negative health effect.

Then there is the Monsanto Protection Act. Depending on your own stance, some will argue the act protects Monsanto and other genetic engineering firms from lawsuits. Others argue the law is in effect to protect these firms from frivilous lawsuits put together by anti-GMO activists and their lawyers. Truth be told, any altered seed variety must have years of independent data to accompany it, and before any approval from the USDA, must undergo years of environmental assessment and health reviews.
Some will say genetically engineered farming is they way of the future and the way to more sustainability.  Others will argue it only harms and contaminates our food supply, environment and economic well-being. Whichever side of the fence you are on, the truth of the matter is we won't know much more about this strain of GE wheat until more information is gathered and more tests are run. This lawsuit and situation are well worth watching, because it should be important to everyone how the future of our food supply is governed and this could just be the beginning.

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