Wheat discovery reignites modified foods debate

June 1, 2013 at 4:57 PM

PORTLAND, Ore., June 1 (UPI) -- Researchers in Oregon said they've found genetically modified wheat in fields where the grain was supposed to have been removed 12 years ago.

The discovery of "Roundup Ready" wheat -- a genetically modified strain of wheat developed by the chemical company Monsanto Co., makers of the Roundup herbicide -- has reignited the debate over genetically modified food and endangers the state's wheat crop, valued at as much as $500 million annually, The (Portland) Oregonian said Saturday.

Though Monsanto said the wheat poses no risk for human or animal consumption -- a claim backed up by the U.S. Agriculture Department -- many foreign markets, including Europe and Japan, refuse to buy genetically modified crops.

European buyers are calling for new inspections of American wheat imports, the newspaper said.

The fact that the wheat was still found a dozen years after it was supposed to have been removed surprised researchers at Oregon State University who tested the samples three different times to ensure there wasn't a mistake. A farmer's attempt to kill the wheat with weed killer failed and it took hold in fields, researchers said.

Monsanto could face litigation from farmers who can't sell their crops. Other companies that have marketed genetically modified crops, only to leave farmers holding the bag when wary consumers refused to buy the harvest, have been held liable in court, The Oregonian said.

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