The main argument for those among us who've been spending the past few months/years trying to build a case to keep GMO-supergiant Monsanto from continually running their business unchecked isn't so much that we oppose the use of technology. Any breakthrough that would help create more food for cheaper prices, and thusly help solve part of the global hunger problem, is something definitely worth exploring.
The big cause for concern, what has us folks all sorts of nervous, is that when you're messing around with something's DNA -- and then putting it into our bodies -- you better make damn well sure you know what you're dealing with. Because with that many variables, and the stakes being that high -- this is our food supply people! -- it's certainly better to be safe than sorry.
But for a lot of people, this anti-Monsanto point of view makes a lot of us sound like a bunch of Chicken Little-style worrywarts that just need to calm down and trust the process. Well, bad news folks: The sky is falling in Oregon. Last week, government officials found "unapproved genetically engineered wheat" growing on a farm there. This is a big deal.
While there's been no evidence that the wheat strains have entered the food supply, or that even if they did they'd be harmful to us, the extremely worrying part of the news is twofold. First, no country, not even the U.S., has approved genetically modified wheat. As such, the fact that it exists may hurt the American export market:
[T]he mere presence of the genetically modified plant could cause some countries to turn away exports of American wheat, especially if any traces of the unapproved grain were found in shipments. About $8.1 billion in American wheat was exported in 2012, representing nearly half the total $17.9 billion crop, according to U.S. Wheat Associates, which promotes American wheat abroad. About 90 percent of Oregon's wheat crop is exported.
In Kansas, a farmer has already filed a lawsuit against Monsanto, claiming that this "gross negligence" will drive down the wheat prices in the U.S. and shatter the market. His attorney claims that the total number that this discovery could cost American wheat farmers, when all is said and done, could be in the scope of "hundreds of millions of dollars." And if that's the case -- Japan, it should be pointed out, has already blocked shipments of U.S. wheat into their country -- this will simply be the first of many, many, many lawsuits directed towards the company.
The second, and possibly more troubling, aspect of this discovery is the fact that Monsanto themselves don't know where the rogue wheat came from.
Apparently, they were trying to develop a GMO wheat strain between 1998 and 2005, but decided to throw the project into the ol' circular file after realizing that foreign countries wouldn't be interested in shipping the GMO wheat into their borders, making the whole thing pointless from a business perspective. But the fact that the wheat somehow then started growing in Oregon is news to them. In fact, they're so unsure of just what else is out there has been contaminated by their strain that they've begun testing wheat in two other states.
This is the main thing that us Chicken Littles have been worrying for awhile. The genie out of its bottle. Frankenstein's monster has broken free from his chains and is currently roaming the countryside. The electrical gates in Jurassic Park failed and dinos are on the loose. If Monsanto doesn't know what's going on with their product, what does that mean for the rest of us?
This story is clearly still in its infancy, so stay tuned.