How did genetically modified wheat escape and taint the fields of American farmers? The unsettling case remains unexplained, but traces back to a USDA seed vault.
According a recent article in the Denver Post, the unapproved strain of genetically modified (GM) wheat that tainted fields in Oregon and prompted a lawsuit from farmers was, in fact, being stored in a government seed bank in Fort Collins, Colorado.
This location is the National Center for Genetic Resources Preservation (NGCRP), operated by the USDA on the Colorado State University campus and formerly known as the National Seed Storage Laboratory (NSSL). It sits nearby the USDA’s Crop Research Laboratory. The NGCRP serves a seed bank and “a repository for animal genetic resources in the form of semen and plant genetic resources in the form of graftable buds or in vitro plantlets.”
This facility began storing Monsanto’s GM wheat strains starting in 2004, but it claims to have destroyed them as of January 2012. Did this USDA facility play a role in the escape of unapproved GM wheat?
Ed Curlett, a spokesperson for the USDA, said, “Whatever seed Monsanto sent to the repository was incinerated.” That agency’s claim is currently being investigated for validation, but, where there’s smoke, there’s typically fire.
Reuters obtained documents indicating that the USDA’s National Center for Genetic Resources Preservation took possession of “at least 43 physical containers of Monsanto’s so-called ‘Roundup Ready’ wheat in late 2004 and early 2005.”
This included ‘more than 1,000 different unique varieties or lines’ of the GM wheat, which would help to explain how the Oregon fields had been tainted with a different variety than Monsanto was reportedly testing there during its field trials from 1997-2005 in at least 16 states. Testing in Oregon, where the tainted wheat was found, reportedly ceased in 2001 and involved Spring wheat while unapproved strains of GM Winter wheat were discovered.
According to Reuters, Monsanto also stored seeds from its GM wheat varieties in St. Louis where the company’s headquarters is located. Monsanto has expressed its theory that an act of sabotage, and not inadvertent contamination, was behind the recent Oregon wheat incident, while the USDA considers it “under active investigation.”
As we previously reported, it has come to light that Monsanto actually resumed testing of their GM wheat in 2011, currently growing strains in both Hawaii and North Dakota test plots. According to Common Dreams:
“Even if Monsanto’s claims about this specific wheat strain were proven true, Monsanto has resumed trials of other and very similar GM wheat seeds, according to information posted in a U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) database.
Monsanto planted 150 acres of GM wheat in Hawaii last year and 300 acres of GM wheat in North Dakota this year—meaning the risk of genetic pollution from unapproved Monsanto wheat is even greater than most people are aware.”
While both Monsanto and U.S. authorities maintain their belief that no food crops were contaminated in the incident, it has shaken faith in the global wheat market, just as GM watchdogs like the Organic Consumers Association have long warned could threaten the financial stability of U.S. wheat farmers. This scandal has already triggered rejections of wheat imports from Japan and South Korea.
What is evident here, but not expressed or emphasized, is that the government agencies that are supposed to be regulating biotech companies from Monsanto on down are actually their biggest backers — and this includes more than just regulatory approval.
Our recent and forthcoming investigations have revealed that biotech is the frequent recipient of government grants as the industry develops new strains of GMO crops, including pharmaceutical drug strains grown in GM plants.
The National Institutes of Health (NIH) has slated an estimated $6.1 billion in grant money to biotechnology research for FY2014, and similar numbers in previous years. Grant money is further issued through agencies like the National Science Foundation and other branches of the government, while states such as Iowa have created funds to bolster genetically modified crop research, all giving aid to biotech companies attempting to bring GM crops to market.
This makes the federal government a partner and investor in these unproven crops, even as they are supposed to be functioning as WATCHDOGS…
Unapproved Monsanto GMO Wheat Caught Tainting an Oregon Field
Instead, Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack is, in reality, one of the biggest de facto lobbyists for genetically engineered crops, having pushed legislation that protects GM crops, argued against containment of open air experimental pharma crops and even set up the Iowa Values Fund, which has given biotech financial incentives to plant in Iowa.
While governor in Iowa, Vilsack was even named ‘Governor of the Year’ by the largest GMO lobbying group, the Biotechnology Industry Organization.
Further assistance for private biotech corporations has come from their partnerships with various seed research and storage facilities which operate with the philanthropic and NGO arm to coordinate a global agricultural policy.
The USDA’s National Center for Genetic Resources Preservation, like its international counterparts Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR) (created by the Rockefeller Foundation) and the Global Crop Diversity Trust, under the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization and directed by the Rockefeller Foundation-funded Friends of Global Crop Diversity, Ltd., work to preserve farmer-derived and wild varieties of plant and animal species, as well as “improved” (i.e. GMO) varieties.
The major foundations, including the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (which recently funded a wheat research facility in Mexico) and the aforementioned Rockefeller Foundation are heavily involved in this organizational structure, overlapping with their significant agenda in controlling global agriculture and promoting the use of genetically modified crops as a (dubious) solution to world hunger.
These centers, like the much-discussed arctic “doomsday” seed vaults, contain a “Noah’s Ark” genetic reservoir , even as consequences from genetically modified agriculture – both intended and unintended – threaten the viability of farmers and the continuity of organic life on earth.