Washington state farmers sue Monsanto over genetically-engineered wheat

Two farms in eastern Washington have filed a  class action lawsuit against the Monsanto Company over its release of genetically-engineered wheat.

The lawsuit was filed yesterday, after genetically-engineered wheat was discovered on an eastern Oregon farm in May.

From 1998 to 2005, Monsanto field tested genetically-engineered wheat in 16 states that was resistant to the herbicide Roundup.

The wheat was never approved for planting.   The company said it stopped field trials nine years ago.

The lawsuit contends the discovery of the genetically-engineered strain in Oregon has had a detrimental effect on the ability of northwest soft white wheat farmers to export their wheat.

Nearly 90 percent of the Pacific Northwest’s soft white wheat crop is exported to Asian nations, where it’s used to make noodles and crackers.

But the discovery of the unapproved, genetically-engineered wheat prompted Japan and South Korea to cancel shipments and refuse to accept imports of U.S. soft white wheat. 

The lawsuit argues the import restrictions could be financially devastating to soft white wheat farmers.

It also contends Monsanto knew genetically-engineered wheat had gotten mixed in with the general wheat supply and that it would cause significant disruptions in the wheat export market and financially damage wheat farmers.

Monsanto attorneys have responded, saying the lawsuit is premature “since the facts to date show the report of Roundup-tolerant wheat is limited to one field in Oregon.”