Monsanto is being sued over rogue GMO wheat discovered on a rural Oregon farm. The wheat strain, which the seed company tested almost a decade ago, was never approved for use by the FDA.
The lawsuit was filed by a Kansas farmer, who is claiming that Monsanto’s gross negligence has driven down wheat prices and caused some international markets to suspend imports of the important US crop.
The farmer, Ernest Barnes, filed the federal civil suit on Monday, seeking unspecified damages that would be determined in a trial. He currently farms 1,000 acres near Elkhart, located in southwest Kansas.
The GMO wheat discovery was announced by the US Agriculture Department last week. The department added that the strain of modified wheat was the one designed by Monsanto to be herbicide resistant, or Roundup Ready. Monsanto tested the crop in Oregon and several other states until 2005, but was never approved for use.
The USDA has assured that the Oregon GMO wheat is safe to eat and there is no evidence showing the wheat strain entered the marketplace. However, the assurances are not enough for opponents of GMOs (genetically modified organisms), who say the crops have not undergone enough testing to prove they are safe for human consumption.
Barnes’ attorney, Warren Burns, added that similar lawsuits are also in the works against Monsanto. They will likely be consolidated for the purposes of discovery — part of the information gathering stage of trial preparation where evidence is investigated and shared among parties.
Burns further stated that the fallout of the Monsanto GMO wheat discovery could cause the agriculture giant hundreds of millions of dollars. Burns explained, “These types of suits serve the purpose of helping police the agricultural system we have in place and make sure farmers are protected.”
While several GMO crops are grown and used in the United States, many other countries will not accept imports of genetically engineered crops. Since the announcement last week, Japan, one of the largest US wheat export markets, suspended some of its imports. South Korea has also announced it will increase its inspection of US wheat imports.
Monsanto released s statement about the lawsuit on Tuesday, saying that the report of some volunteer plants on one Oregon farm was not enough to warrant a lawsuit. The statement, made by David Snively, Monsanto executive vice president and general council, added, “Tractor-chasing lawyers have prematurely filed suit without any evidence of fault and in advance of the crop’s harvest.”
Monsanto intends to present a vigorous defense against the lawsuit over rogue GMO wheat. Do you think the Kansas farmer has grounds to sue Monsanto?