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Japan Saves Wheat From Monsanto's Ruination

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With the news that Japan is once again accepting imports of U.S. wheat, the current crisis for farmers has passed; but the episode still exposes the risks to our food future posed by genetically modified seed.

A number of Asian countries, including Japan and South Korea, cut off imports of wheat grown in the U.S. northwest after an Oregon farmer found wheat plants that wouldn't die after being sprayed with Monsanto's (NYSE: MON  ) powerful herbicide Roundup. Testing revealed it was a strain of wheat seed that had been experimentally modified by the chemicals giant under USDA supervision years before, and should either have been destroyed, or locked up tight in the regulatory agency's vaults. That it had apparently escaped into the wild set off alarm bells globally, and panic among farmers.

Because wheat is typically ingested directly by humans, unlike corn or other crops that are also used for feed and other purposes, farmers have been reluctant to plant -- and consumers wary of buying -- the genetically modified grain. While there's no GM wheat grown anywhere, lab-altered seed accounts for 86% of the country's corn supply, more than 90% of our soy beans, and a major portion of our sugar beets. Half the country's sugar supply comes from sugar beets, and 95% of the seeds used are from Monsanto. 

Between Monsanto, DuPont, and Syngenta, the three companies control 53% of the world's seed production, and when you add in Bayer and Dow Chemical to the GM seed mix, their global control of the food supply is near complete.

Thus, a lab-altered strain appearing in a U.S. wheat field in a region whose crops are raised primarily for export had serious implications. Yet, it's still unknown how the seed strain escaped supposedly secure government facilities in Colorado and made its way to an Oregon wheat field. It suggests that, while this crisis has past, a future calamity is still possible. 

Japan is one of the most important export markets for U.S. wheat, purchasing about $1 billion worth of the grain last year. They were already casting about, looking to buy wheat from other sources last month, the first time in 53 years that's happened. Its decision to resume purchasing from us is a relief to farmers in the middle of their harvest, and for those planning their plantings for next year.

Despite assurances that genetically modified crops are safe, there is growing reluctance among consumers about actually eating them. It's one of the primary reasons the seed giants are strenuously opposed to GM labeling laws. They understand that, given a choice between GM foods and unaltered ones, consumers would choose the latter.

Our wheat exports may be safe for now, despite the scare given us by Monsanto's experiments; but that's only until the next episode occurs, one we were assured couldn't happen even once.

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Read/Post Comments (7) | Recommend This Article (3)

Comments from our Foolish Readers

Help us keep this a respectfully Foolish area! This is a place for our readers to discuss, debate, and learn more about the Foolish investing topic you read about above. Help us keep it clean and safe. If you believe a comment is abusive or otherwise violates our Fool's Rules, please report it via the Report this Comment Report this Comment icon found on every comment.

  • Report this Comment On August 03, 2013, at 1:51 PM, eulu wrote:

    Take request a few minutes of your time and acts. Hope die at last. The organisation European (against) lobbyists union begins the campaign Monsanto go home. Please, unterzeiche and help us this to spread all over the world. Only together we reach something. Thanks

  • Report this Comment On August 04, 2013, at 12:56 AM, Howie208 wrote:

    Monsanto paid everyone for their losses..........right?

  • Report this Comment On August 04, 2013, at 9:51 AM, potlikker wrote:

    how come on all your "News" articles you always have to push your take on stocks....this is sad that you have to use the news to push your wonderful stock much do you get on commission?

  • Report this Comment On August 05, 2013, at 11:17 AM, getthetruth2 wrote:

    I guess the problem is the public's inability to understand risk:

    50 plants (a guess) of RoundUp resistant wheat out of 300 billion planted is somehow a threat (BTW the same gene already imported into Japan in soy and corn by the billion tons over 16 years with no problem. That level of concern is way beyond not logical -- meanwhile oprganic food killing people but imports keep going -makes no sense.

    A heard of animals (yopu pick thespecies) would understand - after a few died of the organic they would stay away from it and feed on the GM food but I guess people are smarter

  • Report this Comment On August 05, 2013, at 3:45 PM, Biloxi8 wrote:

    How can one differentiate between the killer GMO seeds and the normal ones? identical on the outside but a killer on the inside!

    Monsanto contaminated the entire world with their clandestine mafia techniques. It could take decades before you know that GMO gave you cancer.

    Until then keep burning those GMO rops with flamethrowers! The EU has now incinerated 100 thousand tonnes. kEEP UP THE GOOD WORK!

  • Report this Comment On August 05, 2013, at 4:37 PM, brucelateran wrote:

    Monsanto helps feed the world. Does anyone remember the photos of the starving people in National Geographic in years past? There is still hunger in the world, but Monsanto etal. are doing their best to help. Yes they make money doing so. Sorry, that's the way of the world. I would note that the GM seeds in Oregon were apparently somehow released by our GOVERNMENT, not by Monsanto. Give it a rest and go live in caves; I choose not to do so. If GM seeds kill me, someone will find out why and the next generation will have ample food.

  • Report this Comment On August 06, 2013, at 11:49 AM, SPR507 wrote:

    This passes as news? What kind of headline is Japan Saves Wheat From Monsanto's Ruination? May I remind you , as Brucelateran wrote - the US Government released the seeds not Monsanto! Do you really think Monsanto would do something like this? If so, logic is out the window. If this article passes muster as Motley Fool advice, then they are stooping to the level of National Enquirer.

    So much for investment advice...

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