A Kansas wheat farmer Tuesday filed a civil lawsuit against Monsanto for gross negligence in the wake of the USDA's discovery of a genetically engineered volunteer wheat plant in Oregon believed to possess Monsanto's glyphosate-resistant trait.
The farmer says the discovery caused wheat export futures to sink, and is seeking compensation for the damages suffered.
"Monsanto has failed our nation's wheat farmers," said Stephen Susman, an attorney handling the case. "We believe Monsanto knew of the risks its genetically altered wheat posed and failed to protect farmers and their crops from those risks."
However, Monsanto maintains that the wheat, if found to possess the company's Roundup Ready trait without doubt, still poses no risk to the human food chain. In a statement the company says it is prepared to "provide any technical help" possible in determining the source of the GE wheat.
While a team of researchers remains in Oregon to find out more about how the GM wheat got there, Reuters reports that the USDA has expanded the staff on hand from 9 to 15.
"We are doing everything we can to keep foreign markets open to U.S. wheat and wheat products," Darci Vetter, USDA acting under secretary for Farm and Agricultural Services said late last week.
Vetter explained USDA was working to make available a validated test "in case some of our trading partners want further reassurance that this product is not in commerce."
Monsanto also offered up its validated testing method to detect the original Roundup Ready wheat trait to the USDA and government regulators in Japan, Korea, Taiwan and the European Union.
The company said the test, which was designed in line with global testing protocols, is more reliable than currently available tests designed for testing other crops since it pinpoints the specific trait in question.
"We have cooperated with the USDA and other regulatory authorities so that they can continue to have full confidence in U.S. wheat exports," said Philip Miller, vice president of Regulatory Affairs for Monsanto.
"While the USDA has noted that they have no evidence that the original Roundup Ready wheat trait has entered commerce, our support is aimed at ensuring that the U.S. wheat industry and wheat farmers do not experience disruptions in exports."
But Japan, South Korea and the European Union have already committed to more testing of U.S. imports, despite USDA and Monsanto assurance that the wheat is safe.
Monsanto has created a specific webpage to address GMO wheat concerns at www.monsanto.com/gmwheat.
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