Frankenfood? Mutant Wheat Not a Health Threat

Published June 14, 2013

There’s a new twist in the story of genetically modified wheat discovered growing rogue by an Oregon farmer. Monsanto, the company which developed the pesticide resistant strain, has now suggested the stalks were intentionally planted.

The discovery of this wheat is a big deal for two reasons. The first has to do with markets. When the wheat was discovered, Japan immediately stopped imports of U.S. Western White wheat, (grown in Oregon), the European Union announced inspections of incoming shipments and wheat futures fell. This leads to the second reason it matters: the politics of genetically modified (GM) food. The markets moved not because of an actual risk to health from the wheat, but because the world doesn’t trust GM products, largely because of a misinformation campaign conducted by activists.

Crops are considered genetically modified if proteins in their DNA were added in a lab instead of through repetitive breeding. Currently, no GM wheat exists for commercial sale. The wheat discovered in Oregon was tested and found to be the same type that Monsanto was developing as part of the approval process for eventual sale. Initially it was theorized that it was left over from those trials. However, the company has since revealed that the seeds are only viable for two years if left in the soil. The last field trial in Oregon was 2001.

Lost in the uproar is the most important fact: This wheat, like all genetically modified crops, is absolutely harmless.

[Read the rest on Rare]