The food you eat – and the crops it’s made from – are strictly controlled by the FDA to ensure that quality remains high and well-regulated.
At least, that’s the idea.
The wheat is herbicide-resistant and more difficult to kill.
In May 2013, the FDA confirmed that genetically modified wheat from an experimental crop grown by Monsanto had contaminated various other wheat crops across the Pacific Northwest. As genetically modified wheat is not approved for human consumption, this effectively rendered the crops unsalable. The news also triggered prompt action from various importers of U.S. wheat: Japan and South Korea ceased imports of certain wheat strands, while the EU announced it would be conducting tests to determine if wheat was genetically modified. Taiwan, meanwhile, requested that wheat exported from the United States be identified by state. In an industry estimated to be worth more than $8 billion a year, it’s troubling news for farmers and companies alike.
A class action lawsuit filed by one farmer, Dan Brown, is now facing opposition from the company, which has asked Kansas federal court to dismiss it. Monsanto claims that the lawsuit cannot prove individual and actual harm to the plaintiff. Brown alleges that the discovery of genetically modified wheat in contaminated fields hurt farmers’ finances because of falling sales. Engineered wheat cannot currently be sold anywhere in the world due to government bans. The difficulty of removing the affected wheat is self-evident, the claim says; the wheat is herbicide-resistant and more difficult to kill.
Brown’s claims include that the separation of affected wheat from uncontaminated wheat puts an unnecessary strain on farmers, as the process is costly. This, added to the fall in consumer confidence and ability to export crops from Kansas, renders Monsanto culpable, the suit claims. Monsanto is accused of violating regulations while conducting its tests into the new strain of wheat, which was designed to be herbicide resistant. Kansas’ wheat crop alone is thought to be worth around $1 billion a year to the economy.
In its motion to dismiss, Monsanto has accused Brown of filing a speculative lawsuit that fails to identify a specific injury.
The wheat in question was developed by Monsanto in experimental fields to resist the company’s own herbicide. The company has been accused of failing to contain the wheat, however, even after the project was stopped and wheat crops destroyed. Wheat from the engineered crop was able to cross-pollinate with nearby fields, and subsequently fields across multiple states. Although the scale of the contamination is not yet known, the FDA’s warning indicated that much of the Pacific Northwest – where the bulk of US wheat is grown – could be affected.