Kansas farmers sue Monsanto

SOURCE: Linda Fenton (lcfenton@sbcglobal.net)
SUBHEAD: Another Kansas farmer has filed suit against seed giant Monsanto over the discovery of an isolated field of an unauthorized genetically engineered wheat.

By AP Staff on 8 June 2013 for Huffington Post - 

Image above: Harvesting a Kansas wheat farm. From (http://inhabitat.com/kansas-farmer-sues-monsanto-over-gmo-wheat-contamination/).

Another Kansas farmer has filed suit against seed giant Monsanto over the discovery of an isolated field of genetically engineered wheat in Oregon.

Harvey County wheat grower Bill Budde sued Monsanto on Friday in a lawsuit seeking class-action status. It's at least the third such lawsuit filed in federal court in Kansas against St. Louis-based Monsanto since the discovery of the field in May.

Similar lawsuits have also been filed in Idaho and Washington state.

Monsanto has said none of the genetically modified wheat entered the commercial market. [IB Editor - How could they possibly know that?]

The company contends no legal liability exists given the care undertaken, and it has vowed to present a vigorous defense to the lawsuits.

 Kansas Suit over Contaminated Wheat

SOURCE: Linda Fenton (lcfenton@sbcglobal.net)
SUBHEAD: Kansas farmer sues Monsanto after discovering unapproved GM wheat in field.

By Roxana Hegeman on 4 June 2013 for Talking Points Memo - 

A Kansas farmer has sued seed giant Monsanto over last week’s discovery of genetically engineered experimental wheat in an 80-acre field in Oregon, claiming the company’s gross negligence hurt U.S. growers by driving down wheat prices and causing some international markets to suspend certain imports.

The federal civil lawsuit, filed Monday by Ernest Barnes, who farms 1,000 acres near Elkhart in southwest Kansas, seeks unspecified damages to be determined at trial.

U.S. Agriculture Department officials said last Wednesday that the modified wheat was the same strain as one designed by Monsanto to be herbicide-resistance that was tested in Oregon and several other states through 2005 but never approved. The USDA has said the Oregon wheat is safe to eat and there is no evidence that modified wheat entered the marketplace.

It’s believed to be the first lawsuit stemming from the discovery. Similar lawsuits are in the works, Barnes’ attorney said, and the cases will likely be consolidated for the purposes of discovery, a process where evidence is investigated and shared among parties.

No genetically engineered wheat has been approved for U.S. farming. Many countries will not accept imports of genetically modified foods, and the United States exports about half of its wheat crop. Since the announcement, Japan — one of the largest export markets for U.S. wheat growers — suspended some imports. South Korea said it would increase its inspections of U.S. wheat imports.

Barnes referred all calls to his attorneys. One of them, Warren Burns, said that the scope of the damage is potentially in the hundreds of millions of dollars. He said the lawsuit seeks to make sure their client is compensated for his losses.

“These types of suits serve the purpose of helping police the agricultural system we have in place and make sure farmers are protected,” Burns said in a phone interview Tuesday from Dallas.

In a written statement Tuesday, St. Louis-based Monsanto said the report of a few volunteer plants in one Oregon field is the ostensible basis for the lawsuit.

“Tractor-chasing lawyers have prematurely filed suit without any evidence of fault and in advance of the crop’s harvest,” said David Snively, Monsanto executive vice president and general counsel.

The company said its process for closing out its original wheat development program was rigorous, government-directed, well-documented and audited. It noted wheat seed, on average, is viable for only one or two years in the soil.

Monsanto also contended that, given the care undertaken to prevent contamination, no legal liability exists and it will present a vigorous defense.

The modified wheat was discovered when field workers at an eastern Oregon wheat farm were clearing acres and came across a patch of wheat that didn’t belong. The workers sprayed it, but the wheat wouldn’t die. It was then sent to a university lab in early May.

Tests at Oregon State University confirmed that the plants were a strain developed by Monsanto to resist its Roundup Ready herbicides that were tested between 1998 and 2005. At the time, Monsanto had applied to the USDA for permission to develop the engineered wheat, but the company later withdrew that.

The Agriculture Department has said that during that seven-year period, it authorized more than 100 field tests for the herbicide-resistant seed. Tests were conducted in in Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Kansas, Minnesota, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oregon, South Dakota, Washington and Wyoming.

Burns said the case “looks and smells” like the litigation that arose from the contamination of the U.S. rice crop from genetically modified rice. Bayer CropScience, a German conglomerate, announced in 2011 that it would pay up to $750 million to settle claims, including those from farmers who say they had to plant different crops and made less money from them.

Burns anticipated Barnes’ lawsuit would remain in U.S. District Court in Kansas, because “a tremendous amount of harm has fallen on Kansas and Kansas farms.” It has been assigned to U.S. District Judge Monti Belot in Wichita.

Burns said lawyers see a challenge that affects farmers’ ability to make and living and may deny them both the markets and the ability to sell their wheat.

“We view it as very important to maintaining farmers and maintaining the way of life they lead which is very important not only to this country but countries around the world to which we export,” he said. “It is hard to underestimate the importance of the American wheat crop in sustaining people around the globe.”

Unpermitted GMO Wheat found in Oregon

SUBHEAD: USDA says, “that this incident amounts to more than a single isolated incident in a single field on a single farm.”

—Associated Press, June 14. 

The Agriculture Department says it has no indications that genetically modified wheat found in Oregon last month has spread beyond the field in which it was found.

No genetically engineered wheat has been approved for U.S. farming, and the department is investigating how the engineered wheat got in the field. It is the same strain that was legally tested by seed giant Monsanto a decade ago but never approved.

USDA spokesman Matt Paul said in a statement Friday that the department has no evidence “that this incident amounts to more than a single isolated incident in a single field on a single farm.”

Japan, Korea and Taiwan have suspended imports of western white wheat from the Pacific Northwest as the USDA investigates.
U.S. Department of Agriculture investigators are continuing to canvass the Northwest, in an effort to figure out how unauthorized, genetically modified wheat made it into Oregon.

This week the Capital Press reported inspectors have taken seeds from a distributor in Walla Walla, Wash. The general manager of Northwest Grain Growers told the newspaper that investigators took samples of two varieties of wheat, both of which were planted in an Eastern Oregon field. Fifteen USDA inspectors are still investigating the unauthorized GM crop.

So, how did the genetically modified wheat make it to the Northwest? Monsanto tested the herbicide-resistant crop in 16 states, including Oregon and Washington. It closed the program in 2005.

What Do We Know?
For the second week in a row, Japan continued its suspention of winter white wheat exports from the Pacific Northwest. This comes after unapproved genetically modified wheat was found growing in an Oregon farmer’s field.

In an e-mail, USDA spokesman Ed Curlett said inspectors do not think GM wheat has reached the market. He said investigators have not come to any conclusions about genetically modified wheat’s origins.

Researchers say we may never know what happened. No one has discovered exactly how GM strains of rice ended up in farmers’ fields in 2006. The company involved paid farmers $750 million in damages.

Scientists around the Pacific Northwest have a few theories as to how GM wheat wound up in Oregon.

Let’s Dig A Little Deeper
Bob Zemetra, a wheat geneticist at Oregon State University, offers up two theories: wheat pollen and seeds.

So how likely is it that wheat pollen that originated in a test field of genetically modified wheat could have led to the plants growing in the Eastern Oregon field? The pollen would have had to blow a great distance, much farther than anyone thought it could. Researchers say this is highly unlikely because wheat pollinates itself.

Carol Mallory-Smith is with Oregon State University. She says wheat pollen usually travels only a few feet.

In most of the Monsanto tests, Zemetra says, “you left a pretty wide distance between where the trail was being conducted and any type of spring or winter wheat.”

Further complicating the pollen theory is the fact that the Oregon farmer had planted winter wheat, but Monsanto tests were conducted on spring wheat. These two types of wheat do not normally flower at the same time, Zemetra says. That makes cross-pollination extremely unlikely.

So It’s The Seeds Theory, Then?
Genetically modified seeds could have somehow mixed in with non-genetically modified seeds.

The unauthorized genetically modified wheat sprouted up in several random spots across the Oregon field. Only about 1 percent of the field contained the genetically modified crop. That pattern suggests seeds, Zemetra says.

Investigators looking at seed in Walla Walla, as stated in the Capital Press article, gives further credence to this theory.

In a news conference last week, Monsanto spokesman Robb Fraley said the company believes this is an isolated incident.

“It seems to be a random isolated occurrence, more consistent with the accidental or purposeful mixing of a small amount of seed during the planting, harvesting and during the follow cycle in an individual field,” Fraley said during the conference.

Monsanto says it has tested its seed stock and has not found any contaminated wheat varieties.

Zemetra says if wheat seed is kept dry, it can last a long time. That means, he says, somehow the genetically modified seeds could have been mixed in with regular wheat seeds.

Will We Ever Know the Whole Story?

Researchers can test wheat varieties to figure out where the seeds may have come from.

“You can, in a sense, like you’ve seen on those CSI shows, do ‘fingerprinting’ but in a little more detail,” Zemetra says. “The idea is: Let’s fingerprint the varieties that we knew (the genetic modification) was in, and ‘fingerprint’ the unknown varieties.”

Researchers could then trace this information back to the source. But that is a pretty big “could,” Zemetra says.

“One of the potential frustrations is that we may not actually know exactly how it happened,” Zemetra says. “Trying to figure out if it is potentially a very small, low-level contaminate, and it’s isolated into one field… How could it end up in just one field?”

See also:
Ea O Ka Aina: GMO beets destroyed in Oregon 6/23/13


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