No country in the world, including the United States, has approved the planting or sale of genetically modified wheat.
But federal officials have reportedly found unapproved GMO wheat produced by Monsanto growing in an Oregon farm, a revelation that could have far-reaching effects, particularly on the wheat market in the short term, the New York Times reported.
The simple fact that unapproved GMO wheat has been found growing in America could drive countries sensitive to food issues to refuse any American wheat exports, and if any of the tainted crop is detected leaving the country, that concern would be even larger.
And, in fact, Bloomberg reported Thursday that Japan had already chosen to halt wheat imports from the United States, driving wheat down and increasing concerns that other countries may follow suit.
U.S. Wheat Associates reports that about $8 billion in wheat was exported from America in 2012, making up about half of the $17.9 billion worth of wheat the nation produced, according to the Times.
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And in 2006, when unapproved genetically engineered rice was detected in the commercial rice supply, rice prices fell for a period, and the company that produced it had to settle with farmers to make up for their losses.
The unapproved wheat was developed by Monsanto to be resistant to the "Roundup" herbicide, and was found to be free of health problems by the Food and Drug Administration in 2004. Despite its apparent safety, Monsanto chose not to move forward with GMO wheat, as consumers around the globe have voiced opposition to allowing it to enter the food supply.
Large amounts of genetically modified and genetically engineered corn and soybeans are planted and sold each year, but most of it is fed to livestock and other animals, while GMO wheat is a degree closer to people as it would be consumed directly.
Monsanto, which said it is cooperating with a federal investigation into how "Roundup-ready" wheat found its way onto an Oregon farm, responded to the report via a statement obtained by the Times.
"There is considerable reason to believe that the presence of the Roundup Ready trait in wheat, if determined to be valid, is very limited,” the statement read.
The headline-grabbing news that illegal Monsanto crops have been found growing on a farm in America just adds more fuel to the ongoing war between food advocates and health experts, and companies like Monsanto and their congressional backers, and contributes to the widespread feeling that American leaders are in bed with Monsanto.
Across the globe, 61 countries, including China, the European Union's 27 members and even Syria, label genetically modified foods, while America doesn't, and policies are actually winding their way through Congress that would ensure that it never does.
Though many industry representatives insist that GMOs are entirely safe for human consumption, food advocates and health officials point to studies that suggest that they may contribute to kidney and liver damage, reproductive system issues and other ailments as evidence for why labeling should be mandated in order to help people to make their own decisions.