Tougher Regulations for GE Wheat

The U.S. tops the chart as the world’s leading exporter of wheat. Annually, its exported wheat accounts for $8 billion. Suffice to say, it’s a big business. And, one that is in a precarious situation due to threat of contamination from genetically engineered (GE) wheat. Despite the fact that GE wheat has not been approved for commercial production in the U.S., contamination has been confirmed in both Oregon and Montana. These recent episodes of contamination resulted in backlash from potential importers worldwide. The incidents beg for tougher regulation on GE wheat.

USDA is currently addressing oversight shortcomings by requiring permits for any trials of GE wheat. Like all GE field trials, test plots of GE wheat are largely unmonitored, neglecting precautionary practices such as field inspections in subsequent years to scout for volunteer plants. Further complicating this issue is the fact that field trial locations are undisclosed- posing huge risks to organic farmers wishing to enact contamination avoidance strategies on their farms.

More stringent regulations, beyond the implementation of permits, are necessary to protect our farmers and organic seed from unwanted GE contamination.

USDA is accepting comments until October 26, 2015. Submit comments electronically here.


OSGATA made the following recommendations to USDA:


1. Establish Mandatory Contamination Prevention Measures. Seeds are living organisms, and require careful monitoring through the season−and beyond− to prevent potential avenues of contamination. USDA should inspect field trials several times, including after the crop is destroyed and in subsequent growing seasons to look for volunteer plants.

2. Hold Patent Holders Responsible for GE Contamination. The responsibility for prevention of contamination from GE seeds and crops lies with the patent holder. They also should be held financially responsible for related testing costs.

 3. Recognize the Legal Consequences of Contamination.  USDA must acknowledge that there are legal ramifications for farmers resulting from unwanted GE contamination within organic crops. Farmers must have the freedom to farm utilizing their preferred agricultural systems without the threat of GE contamination.

4. Enact Full Transparency in Regards to Field Trials. Full traceability of all GE research trials, whether private industry or university funded, and all commercial plantings of GE crops needs to be maintained and made available for public review.

5. Enact a Moratorium on GE Wheat Field Trials. Until the steps described here are fulfilled and implemented, a moratorium on the trialing of GE wheat is critical. Recent publicized events involving contamination from unregulated GE wheat in Oregon and Montana demonstrate that the USDA does not have effective regulatory authority.



Read OSGATA’s full comments here.






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