Japan, the largest market for U.S. wheat exports, suspended imports from
the United States and canceled a major purchase of white wheat on
Thursday after the recent discovery of unapproved genetically modified
wheat in an 80-acre field in Oregon.
How the altered crop made its way to the Oregon field remains a mystery.
The strain was developed by Monsanto to make wheat resistant to the
company¹s own industry-leading weed killer. Monsanto tested the type of
altered seed in more than a dozen states, including Oregon, between 1994
and 2005, but it was never approved for commercial use.
Many food safety advocates and environmental groups say that more
testing needs to be done to ensure that genetically modified seeds don¹t
harm human health. In addition, they say, the genetic engineering of
crops has encouraged the more widespread use of herbicides and led to
the development of weeds more resistant to those herbicides.
The United States already relies heavily on genetically modified crops.
Genetically engineered corn, cotton and soybeans have gone from 5 to 17
percent of the U.S. market in 1997 to between two-thirds and more than
90 percent in 2012. By some estimates, more than 70 percent of processed
foods sold in the United States contain ingredients and oils from
genetically engineered crops.
But Americans remain skeptical about some genetically modified foods,
including current proposals to cultivate altered salmon. And big
agriculture companies have avoided commercial development of genetically
engineered wheat because about half of the U.S. wheat crop is exported,
and governments in major markets such as the European Union, Japan and
China are opposed to genetically modified wheat seed.
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