USDA Finds Mystery 'Franken-Wheat' Crop

'Rogue' wheat discovered beside old Monsanto testing field
By Neal Colgrass,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 28, 2014 4:40 PM CDT
Mystery 'Franken-Wheat' Crop Appears in Montana
Wheat moves in a field, Sunday, June 22, 2014, in Natural Bridge, Va.   (AP Photo/Mike Stewart)

A tremor is rippling through the US wheat industry as officials say they are investigating another crop of "rogue" genetically modified wheat—this one in Montana. The US Agriculture Department announced the find Friday at the same time it declared an earlier so-called "franken-wheat" scare in Oregon an unsolved mystery, NBC News reports. The latest discovery stretches over one to three acres at a University of Montana research center, beside fields where Monsanto legally tested genetically herbicide-resistant wheat 11 years ago, the AP reports.

Why the concern? Because Taiwan, South Korea, and Japan temporarily stopped buying western white wheat from Pacific Northwestern states after the Oregon find last May. A US wheat growers' rep predicts no disruption this time, but an analyst tells Reuters that "some of our customers, particularly in Asia" will likely pull back and take "a wait-and-see attitude." The concern is that the GE wheat—which foreign markets have banned—could mingle with nearby commercial wheat fields (although there's little evidence that GE seeds are less safe, the AP notes). Monsanto has alleged that detractors planted the rogue "franken-wheat" last time, while critics say earlier GE-wheat testing is contaminating natural crops. (A farmer has sued Monsanto over "franken-wheat.")

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