They said it couldn’t happen. It was all supposed to be locked up tight and under control. Yet, despite all the assurances to the contrary, unapproved genetically modified wheat has been found in an Oregon wheat field, and the implications of its discovery are far-reaching and potentially devastating. Monsanto Company (NYSE:MON) may have just single-handedly wrecked the wheat industry and the economy.
Corn, soy beans, alfalfa, sugar beets. All these crops have been genetically modified by Monsanto Company (NYSE:MON) and its GM brethren to the point where there are virtually no alternatives for farmers. GM corn accounts for 86% of the country’s supply. More than 90% of the soy beans have been altered. Sugar beets are half the country’s sugar supply, and 95% of those seeds are from Monsanto Company (NYSE:MON).
All told, Monsanto Company (NYSE:MON), DuPont Fabros Technology, Inc. (NYSE:DFT), and Syngenta AG (ADR) (NYSE:SYT) control 53% of the world’s seed production, yet their control of our food supply is almost all-encompassing, because they cross-license their technology between themselves and with other companies.
Monsanto Company (NYSE:MON) recently agreed to share its technology with The Dow Chemical Company (NYSE:DOW) and Bayer (and vice versa), while DuPont Fabros Technology, Inc. (NYSE:DFT) and Bayer similarly expanded their collaboration. Syngenta AG (ADR) (NYSE:SYT) is cross-pollinating The Dow Chemical Company (NYSE:DOW)’s AgroSciences division with its GM technology.
Yet, the one crop that has been saved from being altered up until now has been wheat. Not that Monsanto Company (NYSE:MON)hasn’t tried, as it experimented with modifying its DNA to make it resistant to its Roundup herbicide. Fields in 16 states including Arizona, California, Florida, Nebraska, and Oregon were used to test Roundup Ready wheat seed. But because the rest of the world has banned GM wheat from their bread boxes, Monsanto backed off, and suspended the program in 2005.
The wheat strain discovered last month was in a field that was supposed to remain fallow. Instead, it sprouted, and was found to contain the Roundup Ready gene, even though the Agriculture Dept. supposedly destroyed all the seed that was tested except for a small amount it kept to run additional tests. Now we learn that some managed to escape.
The U.S. is, by far, the world’s largest exporter of wheat, shipping almost 28 million metric tons around the world, or about half of all the wheat this country produces each year. That’s just as much as all of Europe and Canada combined! Countries like Japan and South Korea are huge importers of U.S. wheat, but it’s done on one condition: the wheat can’t be genetically modified.