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Monsanto 'Suspicious' of GMO Wheat in Oregon Field

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St. LOUISA Monsanto Company executive on Friday said the results of an ongoing investigation indicate a genetically-engineered crop that was found on an Oregon farm was intentionally planted by someone other than the farmer.

Robb Fraley, chief technology officer of Monsanto, also told reporters the evidence to date shows the detection of the Roundup Ready wheat is an isolated incident that has not been detected on other farms or entered commerce.

As a genetically modified organism (GMO), Monsanto's Roundup Ready wheat is resistant to the herbicide glyphosate.

The federal government authorized more than 100 field tests of the GMO wheat from 1998 through 2005. Monsanto said the program in Oregon was discontinued 12 years ago.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is investigating how the wheat ended up on the farm. The agency has noted the wheat poses no public health or food-safety concerns, and its investigation thus far also has indicated the detection of the wheat is isolated.

The facts indicate "the strong possibility that someone intentionally introduced wheat seed containing the CP4 event in his field sometime after the farmer initially planted it," Fraley said Friday.

"The evidence now collected, the fact patterns established and the original Roundup Ready CP4 event appearing suddenly after 12 years out of nowhere in a single field in the state of Oregon is highly suspicious," he added.  

Tests of wheat varieties in the Pacific Northwest that Monsanto, USDA and Washington State University conducted have not detected the wheat anywhere else but on the one farm, Fraley noted.

"This is vitally important information for area wheat growers that are now gearing up for harvest in the next couple of weeks," he said. "And this data should also provide confidence to grain handlers in the area and foreign market buyers as well as seed suppliers in the region."

Fraley acknowledged Japan and Korea have temporarily suspended new purchases of soft white wheat, but he said Monsanto is unaware of any wheat orders being cancelled or deliveries of the crop being rejected.

"No other countries have announced purchase restrictions and there has been no adverse effect on wheat prices," Fraley said.

Monsanto and USDA are still trying to figure out how the wheat ended up on a small portion of the 123-acre field. The farmer, who has remained anonymous, is not suspected of any wrongdoing.

We know that the farmer himself never participated in any of the field testing [of the GMO wheat] and to the growers knowledge the field in question was never used in any trials," Fraley said.

Fraley said Monsanto reached out to the farmer's lawyer, who confirmed the genetically-modified wheat "appeared in patches or clumps and appeared here or there in the field."

Had the GMO crop been present in the two seed varieties the farmer planted, it would have been evenly disbursed throughout the field, and following the harvest, the remaining seeds in the field would have germinated, resulting in the wheat plants appearing "uniformly", Fraley said.

Importantly, none of these standard farming practices are consistent with or can explain a smattering of volunteer wheat plants in the field and in only about 1% of that field or as patches or clumps of volunteers. [USDA] Secretary Vilsack also noted earlier this month at the National Press Club this particular circumstance is unusual and odd and very rare," Fraley said.  Our view, this is the pattern you would expect if someone had dispersed the seedthat is had entered the field and sown the seed mechanically or by hand at some point during the subsequent cycle when the field was not being farmed."

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