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Plant scientists question Monsanto’s findings about escaped wheat variety | South China Morning Post


Several plant scientists have questioned conclusions US seeds giant Monsanto drew from its investigation of an escaped gene-altered wheat variety and said there is still a risk that rogue grain is in the seed supply.

In its first detailed response to the announcement that a genetically modified wheat not approved for use was found growing in an American farmer’s field, Monsanto said that it tested 31,200 seed samples in the US states of Oregon, where the wheat was found, and Washington and found no contamination.

That’s not enough to convince some researchers that this genetic modification, not cleared for commercial sale, won’t be found in some wheat seeds.

“We don’t know where in the whole chain it is,” said Carol Mallory-Smith, the weed science professor at Oregon State University who tested the initial wheat plants. “I don’t know how Monsanto can declare anything. We had these plants in the field.”

The US Department of Agriculture is investigating how the wheat showed up eight years after the company ended field tests. It was found growing on about 1 per cent of the farmer’s 51-hectare field, and he submitted it to Oregon State for testing after an Monsanto’s Roundup herbicide didn’t kill it.

Monsanto’s tests show the genetically modified variety isn’t present in the types of seeds planted on the Oregon farm or in wheat seed common in the region, Monsanto chief technology officer Robb Fraley said.

In previous cases, such as during the outbreak of herbicide-resistant weeds in recent years, Monsanto has played down the risks, said Doug Gurian-Sherman, senior scientist at the Union of Concerned Scientists, which is critical of Monsanto’s genetically modified research.

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via Plant scientists question Monsanto’s findings about escaped wheat variety | South China Morning Post.

Genetically Modified Wheat Isn’t Supposed to Exist. So What Is It Doing in Oregon?


Wheat farmers, advocates of food safety, and pretty much anyone who eats bread or noodles have turned their attention to Oregon, where a wheat farmer found a genetically engineered strain of wheat in his otherwise unmodified crop. He couldn’t kill it in any of the normal ways, so he sent it to the lab for testing, which sounds like the set-up for a farm-belt horror movie. The reality has caused alarm of a different sort: Genetically modified wheat hasn’t been approved by the Food and Drug Administration, and unlike corn and soy and other so-called GMO foods, there isn’t supposed to be any genetically modified wheat in the U.S. food supply at all.

There are two reasons to care. Food safety folks lobby hard for labeling of genetically modified foods, saying that the jury is out on the long-term health and environmental effects and consumers deserve to know what they’re buying. The companies that make the seeds say they’re perfectly safe. And for wheat farmers and exporters, this potentially cripples the export market: Many foreign buyers don’t want genetically modified wheat and can switch their buying to Russia, Ukraine, Australia, and other large exporters. Japan reacted quickly, canceling an order today for nearly 25,000 tons of wheat, Bloomberg News reported, and wheat futures dropped on the Chicago Board of Trade.

The Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS), which is responsible for keeping unapproved GMOs out of the food supply, has begun testing the wheat. In a full-court PR press, the agency has also released a Q&A (PDF) and video to address the issue. Here are a few points to consider:

It’s probably too late to do much about this.

The U.S. has some 1,000 field trials for new gene-altered crops each year, most in multiple sites. The protocols for containing those genes are lax, argue such critics as the Center for Food Safety, which wants a moratorium on field testing of gene-altered crops. ”I would not be at all surprised if there are a number of experimental genes that have contaminated and are happily being passed along at low levels in the food supplies of various crops already, but nobody’s testing,” says Doug Gurian-Sherman, a senior scientist with the Union of Concerned Scientists in Washington. “It’s really a ‘don’t look, don’t tell’ situation. We just really don’t know.”

After all, this isn’t the first time.

In 2000, a strain of corn called StarLink, engineered by Aventis (SNY) to kill caterpillars, was found in taco shells. In 2006, Bayer’s (BAYN) LibertyLink experimental rice made its way into the food supply, leading to lost exports. In 2012, the German company agreed to pay $750 million to settle claims from 11,000 U.S. farmers in five states. Restoring genetic purity to a crop is a very expensive process and takes time.

Is there a public safety issue?

That’s a matter of debate. Regulators were quick to jump on the Oregon discovery with a battery of tests and extensive investigations that are under way now. Monsanto (MON) designed the Roundup Ready wheat to withstand its Roundup herbicide used to keep fields free of pests, and the gene isn’t considered harmful. “The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) confirmed the food and feed safety of Roundup Ready wheat more than a decade ago,” Monsanto said in a May 29 statement.

Critics of gene-altered food argue that the periodic crop discoveries highlight a regulatory system that is woefully inadequate to monitor the expansion of modified crops and to detect any dangerous genes that could materialize. “The question is why APHIS does not tighten its procedures for field trials. It’s incredibly lax, whatever APHIS may try to say,” says Bill Freese, a science policy analyst with the Center for Food Safety.

Does the rogue wheat have any Sarah Palin connection?

No.

via Genetically Modified Wheat Isn’t Supposed to Exist. So What Is It Doing in Oregon? – Businessweek.

Dalai Lama plans visit to Oregon in May |


PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — The Dalai Lama plans a three-day visit to Oregon in the spring for discussions in Portland and Eugene about spirituality and the environment.

His office in India confirmed Monday that the visit is being planned by Maitripa College, a Buddhist institution in Portland. It’s scheduled May 9-11.

On a visit to Portland in 2001, the Oregonian reported, the Dalai Lama attracted 25,000 people to Pioneer Courthouse Square and a crowd filled Memorial Coliseum.

via Dalai Lama plans visit to Oregon in May | Local & Regional | KATU.com – Portland News, Sports, Traffic Weather and Breaking News – Portland, Oregon.

via Dalai Lama plans visit to Oregon in May | Local & Regional | KATU.com – Portland News, Sports, Traffic Weather and Breaking News – Portland, Oregon.

Tom Angell: 10 Most Unexpected Marijuana Reform Supporters


With less than one week before we find out how voters in Colorado, Oregon and Washington will decide on ballot measures to regulate marijuana like alcohol, polls indicate there’s a very good chance at least one of these states will make history by enacting the world’s first-ever marijuana legalization law.

While the movement to reform marijuana laws has been steadily picking up steam in recent years, with rising national polling support and a growing number of states allowing for the medical use of marijuana, having the voters of a state opt to legalize and tax marijuana for adult use would propel the issue to the forefront of the mainstream political scene like never before.

The three legalization initiatives on state ballots are not only drawing support from a large number of voters, but are garnering endorsements from newspaper editorial boards, civic groups, civil rights leaders, celebrities and even some members of law enforcement.

But guess who else is speaking out in support of changing marijuana laws? Check out the slideshow below for a top 10 list of the most unexpected allies in the fight against marijuana prohibition.

These quotes are sourced from the new website http://www.MarijuanaMajority.com, which compiles quotes and videos from prominent people across the political spectrum who support reforming marijuana laws.

via Tom Angell: 10 Most Unexpected Marijuana Reform Supporters.

via Tom Angell: 10 Most Unexpected Marijuana Reform Supporters.

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