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People chant and carry signs during one of many worldwide protests against Monsanto in Montpelier, Vt. on Saturday, May 25, 2013. (AP Photo/Mark Collier)
(CNSNews.com) – The discovery of genetically engineered wheat on an Oregon farm is having economic repercussions for the United States, at a time when protests against this type of food are growing.
Japan, one of the largest export markets for U.S. wheat growers, has suspended some imports of U.S. wheat, the Associated Press reported. Katsuhiro Saka, a counselor at the Japanese Embassy in Washington, told the AP that his country is waiting for more information from the Agriculture Department as it investigates the discovery.
The USDA announced the discovery of the unapproved, genetically altered, herbicide-resistant wheat in Oregon on Wednesday, reigniting protests from the liberal advocacy group MoveOn.org, which accuses the “evil” Monsanto of making a secret deal with the USDA to keep selling genetically engineered seeds that are not labeled as such.
The USDA said on Wednesday that plant samples from an Oregon farm showed the presence of genetically engineered (GE) wheat.
“Further testing by USDA laboratories indicates the presence of the same GE glyphosate-resistant wheat variety that Monsanto was authorized to field test in 16 states from 1998 to 2005,” the news release said. “There are no GE wheat varieties approved for sale or in commercial production in the United States or elsewhere at this time.”
But USDA also said the detection of this particular wheat variety “does not pose a food safety concern.” In fact, it added, based on Food and Drug Administration findings, “this variety is as safe as non-GE wheat currently on the market.”
Nevertheless, USDA said it is “taking this situation very seriously” and it has launched a formal investigation to find out “how it happened.”
Asked about the discovery of the Oregon GE wheat on Thursday, a White House spokesman said he didn’t want to “get ahead” of the USDA investigation.
“We certainly have been in touch with our trading partners on this issue, but there’s no indication at all at this point, based on the FDA’s review, that there’s any threat to food safety,” spokesman Josh Earnest said.
Even before this week’s confirmation of GE wheat in Oregon, protests have been building against “genetically modified organisms,” or GMOs for short.
Protesters chanted “Heck no GMO” in front of the White House last Saturday during one of the largest of many demonstrations worldwide against GMOs.
Organizers said their “March against Monsanto” protests took place in more than 420 cities across the globe on Saturday, following Senate rejection of an amendment to the farm bill requiring GMOs to be labeled as such.
The amendment would have allowed the states to require that “any food, beverage, or other edible product offered for sale have a label on indicating that the food, beverage, or other edible product contains a genetically engineered ingredient.”
Critics of Monsanto, one the largest seed distributors in the world, claim that the genetically modified seeds could have harmful, long-term effects on people’s health and the environment. Some of the signs held up outside the White House read: “Seeds of Destruction”; “Just say no to Monsanto”; “Seeds belong to nature”; and “Hell no GMO.”
“The way you want to avoid GMOs is buying organic food,” said one protest leader nicknamed “Gene-etic.” “The USDA seal — the little green seal on the front or the back of your food — is the only way that you can buy processed food in America that doesn’t have a generically engineered ingredient. The status quo is, you’re either organic or everything else.”
Monsanto addresses the push for labeling GMO foods on its website: “We oppose current initiatives to mandate labeling of ingredients developed from GM seeds in the absence of any demonstrated risks. Such mandatory labeling could imply that food products containing these ingredients are somehow inferior to their conventional or organic counterparts.”
Monsanto noted that the Food and Drug Administration does require labeling of GMO food products if there is a “meaningful difference between that food and its conventional counterpart.” It also says the American Medical Association supports the FDA’s food labeling approach.
But the protests are not over. According to MoveOn.org, “A massive backlash is growing” against Monsanto and against those in Congress who rejected the labeling of genetically modified foods.
In a message to supporters on Thursday, MoveOn.org requested donations to help “fight back against Monsanto” with protests and lobbying campaigns.
Among other things, MoveOn.org said it plans to call out “key members of Congress who are supporting Monsanto over the public interest.”
Cost of governor’s twin tunnels plan disputed
From:Cathy O’Connor, Sacramento Bee
Re “Brown looks to build a legacy” (Page A1, May 26): I applaud Gov. Jerry Brown’s desire to get things done in California, but I am concerned with his recent flippancy in addressing sensitive issues — from broken bolts on the Bay Bridge and his determination to continue the Delta tunnels project.
Letter: Pistachio exporters should pay full cost for scarce water