The Organic Consumers Association (OCA) today called on the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to immediately end all open-air field testing of genetically engineered crops (GMOs). The request comes in response to last week’s discovery by an Oregon farmer of an unapproved, illegal variety of wheat, genetically engineered by Monsanto to withstand the company’s toxic RoundUp herbicide, growing on his property.
The OCA has launched a consumer petition calling on the USDA to halt open-air field trials of GMO crops.
“Public health and the livelihood of U.S. wheat farmers have been endangered as a result of America’s regulatory recklessness,” said Ronnie Cummins, National Director of the OCA. “Monsanto is currently conducting hundreds of field trials of GMO crops in the U.S. How many other unknown instances of contamination have occurred but have yet to be discovered? The U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack should impose an immediate moratorium on open-air field trials of all new GMO crops that have yet to be approved for human consumption.”
The rogue GMO wheat was discovered a full eight years after Monsanto’s last known field trials in the state. The discovery is proof that GMO crops, legal or otherwise, have the potential to contaminate conventional non-GMO and organic crops. No varieties of GM wheat have been approved for human consumption by any country in the world, largely due to widespread and sustained farmer and consumer protests.
Related health problems associated with GMO wheat sprayed with Monsanto’s RoundUp herbicide include liver failure, gastrointestinal issues, obesity, cardiovascular disease, cancer, diabetes, and Alzheimer’s, among others. Now U.S. consumers cannot be assured that their wheat products are GMO-free, much less free of unapproved GMOs. And U.S. farmers are faced with huge losses, as other countries refuse U.S. shipments of potentially contaminated wheat.
According to the USDA’s biotechnology database, there are hundreds of open-air field trials of GMO crops going on across the country. The variety of illegal wheat discovered in Oregon was field-tested in 16 states, including Oregon, from 1998 through 2005. According to a Bloomberg report, Monsanto is still doing field tests of GMO wheat today, in North Dakota and Hawaii, though the company has tried to portray its wheat program as having been closed out nine years ago. There are also hundreds of other GMO field trials currently being conducted in every region of the country.
“No further trials should be allowed until biotech companies can guarantee, 100 percent, that their unapproved crops will not contaminate non-GMO and organic crops,” said Cummins. “Secretary Vilsack should immediately recall the rest of Monsanto’s GMO wheat: 150 acres in Hawaii and 300 acres in North Dakota. Then he should turn his attention to the hundreds of other GMO field trials, any one of which could create the next contamination crisis.”
The Organic Consumers Association (OCA) is an online and grassroots non-profit 501(c)3 public interest organization campaigning for health, justice, and sustainability. The Organic Consumers Fund is a 501(c)4 allied organization of the Organic Consumers Association, focused on grassroots lobbying and legislative action.