GM wheat found in Oregon: a real tempest in a teacup

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Last week, a farmer in OR reported finding evidence of wheat containing Monsanto s Roundup Ready variant. The bizarre aspects of this alleged discovery are manifold: RR wheat was FDA approved as safe for human consumption after the typical exhaustive testing GM products are subject to (because of activist-generated fears of GM technology, in other words, hyper-precautionary) in 2004 but never marketed due to market analysis showing consumers were not ready for biotech wheat. Also, while those opposed to GM agriculture, led by anti-science activists and rent-seeking organic products associations, have expressed concerns about GM pollen and seeds migrating to their pristine organic crops, such concerns have not previously been voiced about wheat, because there hasn t been any, and also wheat pollen doesn t travel more that 30 feet, unlike corn and other crop pollens.

ACSH s Dr. Gilbert Ross had this to say: The real message here should be, So what if glyphosate-resistant pollen caused this local eruption of GM wheat? Americans should be educated by scientists, if not by agribusiness, and certainly not by environmentalists, to understand that GM crops and foods made with them are not only not harmful, but are likely to be less harmful than traditionally grown foods. This is because the genetic manipulation is so ultra-precise, as opposed to throwing seeds up in the air and hoping they come down in some beneficial order, which is the old way of doing plant breeding.

As for this episode, I have my own, entirely unsupported beliefs: I think that if this wheat is actually shown to be Roundup Ready which is still under investigation by the USDA the only possible explanation is sabotage. By which I mean, someone in the anti-GMO camp planted the RR variant in this wheat field to bring exaggerated suspicion and fear about the spread of GM seeds to non-GM crops. If so, the perp failed biotechnology 101 by not realizing that RR wheat has not been seen anywhere for over a decade, and that wheat pollen does not travel.

Going a few steps further, the lack of widespread uptake of GM technology to ameliorate malnutrition, indeed starvation, in the third world is due to the manipulation of facts about these crops by activist environmental groups with an anti-technology, anti-business agenda masquerading as concern for public health. One glaring example is the case of Golden Rice rice genetically-modified to have vitamin A precursor to reduce the scourge of that vitamin deficiency among the poor who are denied this health boon, thanks to superstition fomented by well-fed anti-science activists. GM crops have been planted and harvested in profusion over the past 17 years without a single documented instance of adverse health or environmental effects.