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By John Upton, Grist

A week after word got out that unapproved GMO wheat was found growing on an Oregon farm, Monsanto has announced the results of an internal investigation into the mysterious outbreak. The results can be summarized thusly: “Nothing is wrong at our end and everybody’s crops are safe. Maybe our opponents planted our freak wheat to try to hurt us.”

From the Associated Press:

A genetically modified test strain of wheat that emerged to the surprise of an Oregon farmer last month was likely the result of an accident or deliberate mixing of seeds, the company that developed it said Wednesday.


Representatives for Monsanto Co. said during a conference call Wednesday that the emergence of the genetically modified strain was an isolated occurrence. It has tested the original wheat stock and found it clean, the company said.

Sabotage is a possibility, said Robb Fraley, Monsanto chief technology officer.

“We’re considering all options and that’s certainly one of the options,” Fraley said.

Sabotage aside, many scientists aren’t buying the company’s assurances that there’s no reason to worry about GMO wheat infecting the food supply. From Bloomberg:

Monsanto said that it has since [last week] tested 31,200 seed samples in Oregon and Washington and found no evidence of contamination.

That’s not enough to convince some researchers that this genetic modification, not cleared for commercial sale, won’t be found in some wheat seeds.

“We don’t know where in the whole chain it is,” said Carol Mallory-Smith, the weed science professor at Oregon State University who tested the initial wheat plants and determined they were a genetic variety Monsanto had tested. “I don’t know how Monsanto can declare anything. We obviously had these plants in the field.” …

“Sure they tested it, but that doesn’t mean it’s all clean,” David Andow, a professor of entomology at the University of Minnesota, said in an interview. “It just means it’s not so widespread that it could be detected easily.”

Although it’s been widely reported that Monsanto ended field trials of its genetically modified Roundup Ready wheat in 2005, we recently shared the news that the company resumed such field trials in 2011.

So, even while Monsanto is deliberately planting its deeply unpopular GMO wheat on test plots in two states, its officials are suggesting, without any evidence, that the company’s opponents — people who oppose or even fear GMO crops — are responsible for the rogue outbreak in Oregon. Right.

This article was written by John Upton and published in Grist on June 6, 2013.

Photo by Enoch Howell/ Flickr.

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