Continue wheat probe

By Observer editorial June 20, 2013 02:00 pm

Wheat is an incredibly important part of the Eastern Oregon economy. In Oregon as a whole, the crop is valued at $300 million to $500 million annually.

That’s why it was a real bombshell when on May 29 it was announced that a genetically modified, unapproved strain of wheat had been found in a field in Eastern Oregon.

The international reaction was immediate. Japan put a 25,000-ton order of wheat on the shelf. South Korea, Taiwan and other markets also expressed alarm. The truth is, 90 percent of the wheat grown in the Northwest goes to nations who say “no” to GMO food, and any fears these nations have about a tainted crop can effect all farmers in the region, no matter how pure their output. 

 It’s good news, then, when in a statement the U.S. Department of Agriculture said it finds no reason to believe the GMO wheat has spread beyond the original field. The investigation continues, and there are more questions than answers.

The story seems like something out of science fiction. An unidentified farmer sprayed wheat with a glyphosate-based herbicide, but the plants did not die. He knew something was dead wrong and promptly reported the incident to authorities. 

The Agriculture Department needs to dig deeper and get to the bottom of the story. How did the wheat, from a strain of GMO wheat that is herbicide resistant and legally tested by seed giant Monsanto a decade ago, get into this field?

Farmers who may suffer from this isolated incident need compensation. Nearly three dozen Oregon legislators signed on to ask Gov. John Kitzhaber to seek help for innocent farmers who suffer economic harm. This is a major screw up and somebody needs to pay.