17 comments on “The Oregon GM Wheat Mystery: A Summary

  1. I don’t find the presence of the wheat “horrifying” at all. It’s just wheat, for cripe’s sakes. It’s certainly interesting, and I have a feeling it will be an entertaining story as it unfolds.

    What I find horrifying is the irrationality of the Japanese and the South Koreans over this. I find it horrifying that the wheat industry is held captive by the rank superstition of importing nations.

    The farmer who “discovered” the wheat is “distraught” and has hired a lawyer? This is very peculiar.

    In India, the small farmers liked their Bt cotton so much that they just took it, bred it themselves, and started their own industry. Too bad the same thing doesn’t happen with the wheat. Only when the technology is adopted broadly–and enthusiastically–will the Fear go away.

    • You misunderstand Mike… what I am horrified at is what it might do to markets and yes, the irrationality of Japan and South Korea as you put it. Yes, the farmer is distraught because spilling the beans could hurt his fellow farmers. The lawyer is for his protection. Check my sources… it’s all true.

  2. See what you made me do, Mike. I changed “horrified” to “worried.” I don’t want people to misunderstand. Though I didn’t mention it in this story, I have kinfolk who farm wheat in the area. A local PBS radio show will discuss this issue today. The markets are becoming “jittery”. This really could be huge… we just don’t know. I’m NOT saying it should be huge… just that it might be. Japan and South Korea didn’t ask me my opinion before they rejected wheat shipments all ready to ship out from my home town!

  3. Good summary!
    It could become huge,… or it could just become a non-issue. A lot depends on the scope of the occurrence. Which ever way it goes, the topic is more political than scientific. Japan and Korea have almost certainly been importing HT wheat (BASF Clearfield varieties) for years with no complaints. It is “different” because it is developed by chemical mutation, not transgenetic techniques, and is therefore considered non-GMO.

    I feel for this farmer. He was honest, open and fair. I hope the community sticks by him.

    • I hope the fallout isn’t hard on this farmer either. I too feel for him. Yes it definitely depends on what the investigation turns up, I agree that it is political, sad but true.

  4. All very interesting. Of coure it had to happen in Oregon where there’s quit a bit of Anti-GMO legislation in the state legislature currently. I also find it interesting that Washington State University requested a patent for Round-up Tolerant wheat variety in 2008.

    The good news is, the seed trail is well documented so hopefully they can pinpoint the “how” soon.

    Also I would suggest keeping track of the capitalpress.com articles. Once this story loses interest with OregonLive the capital press will keep following it as it’s the region’s ag newspaper. I also read “Farmers feel vindiacted after GMO Wheat Discovery” … http://www.capitalpress.com/content/djw-GMOwheatreax-053113

  5. That is interesting about WSU… hmm. Thanks for the link. I also have kinfolk who farm wheat in the affected area. They are taking a “wait and see” approach but of course are watching things very closely. The latest is that no other similar plants have been found. And yes, we’d all like to know what the heck happened so I hope it is easy to trace.

  6. Thanks for posting, Julie:

    I am interested in the Oregon wheat ‘saga’ for a special reason. We had a similar issue turn up here in Canada in 2009. Triffid flax was a GE flax developed in the 90s. Unlike the RR wheat, Triffid had actually received approval for food / feed safety in both Canada and the US. But *like* GM wheat, Triffid never saw the “commercialized light of day” because our major market, the EU, said it would never buy it. Soon after, in 2001, Triffid was voluntarily deregistered and all stores of seed were destroyed.

    Here’s the kicker. In 2009, they found evidence of this GE material in stores of flax in the EU. The whole flax industry in Canada was immediately shut down, flax was quarantined and all imports into the EU were stopped. The Canadian flax industry and the federal government of Canada worked with DG Sanco in the EU to quickly put together a stewardship program to manage the issue in Canada. This included testing of stores / shipments all along the value chain. In short, it was a nightmare.

    After testing was conducted, it was found that there a wide-spread low level presence (< 0.10%) of Triffid across Western Canada (there is where flax in grown in Canada). There were no 'hot spots' in Canada. The 'problem' was eventually attributed to contaminated (hate that word) breeder at the Crop Development Centre at the U of S. Some of the obsolete flax varieties were destroyed. Others were reconstituted. As of 2014, all the breeder stock should be 'clean' and ready for the foundation seed program in Canada.

    If you are interested, we have documented the case in a fairly easy to read article in AgBioForum:

    Ryan and Smyth (2012) Economic Implications of Low-level Presence in a Zero-Tolerance European Import Market: The Case of Canadian Triffid Flax http://www.agbioforum.org/v15n1/v15n1a03-ryan.htm

    It will be interesting to follow what happens here on in with RR wheat and market implications. Apparently wheat prices have taken a jump here in Canada, due – of course – to the controversy in the US (the reverse happened when we had the flax problem). One country's loss is another's gain??? Sigh.

  7. @ Cami. Thanks for that! Interesting story about Canadian flax that I heretofore knew nothing about. So far, there don’t seem to be additional incidences of the RR wheat. But of course more will be revealed after a thorough investigation. It is a riveting story for biotech geeks… and I am one of those now! I also have family who farms wheat in the same area so it’s close to home as well.

  8. Yes, Cami, apparently, GMO’s respect international borders :) That said, the Japanese and some other nations do sometimes fail to grasp the enormous sizes of our countries. Oregon alone is about 1.75 times the size of all of Japan. However, i think the world knows that if all imports of US wheat is banned, it would be quite difficult to pick up the slack. And, if for some reason, Canadian wheat was also banned, Europe and Asia would be scrambling for food.

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