22 Sept 2013 - There is a Mystery in the Pacific Northwest

What is going on in the Pacific Northwest?….and why do I ask the question? Well, I ask it because this summer there have been some unusual discoveries in farm fields in that part of the country. You may recall earlier this summer, in one wheat field in the state of Oregon, they discovered a variety of GMO wheat not approved for use in this country, and a variety that Monsanto had stopped working on five years ago. Yet, there it was, in one field, and growing. How did it get there? It did, at least temporarily, cause some buyers of U.S. white wheat in the world to suspend purchases from the United States, but since there were no further discoveries, they have since resumed their buying.

Now, a couple of weeks ago, a hay producer in the state of Washington discovered some GMO hay in one of his fields, Roundup Ready hay, that has been approved for use in this country, but he had not planted it because some of his foreign buyers didn’t want GMO hay. He said he had a shipment for export rejected because it contained some genetically modified organisms. He has no idea how it made its way into his hay field. So what is happening?

The Department of Agriculture conducted extensive research and detective work to try to determine the origin of that unapproved wheat growing in the Oregon wheat field and came up with no answers. In the case of the Roundup- Ready hay, the Department of Agriculture said it would not take any action in the GMO alfalfa contamination case, as the grower called it, because according to the USDA “that is a market-place problem that should not be addressed by the government“. In other words, since it is an approved technology, it is not up to the Federal government to investigate how it got into the one field in Washington. So, we have two mysteries, both in the same part of the country.

Now, here comes the conspiracy theory. I have received e-mails from several people who have offered this idea on why the discoveries occurred in two neighboring states in the Pacific Northwest. Washington state is the state where the battle over GMO food labeling will be on the ballot in the next election. Already the “for” and “against” groups are lining up supporters and money, with those who want labeling, working hard to do what their counterparts in California could not do a year ago when Proposition 37 was defeated by voters in that state.

Several of my listeners have strongly suggested that this is part of the campaign by the pro-labeling groups, and that anti-GMO activists are deliberately getting these varieties into the fields. As one listener put it “That way they can say to voters…See how bad GMO’s are, we can’t control them and they can destroy our export market, so vote against any GMO in your food.”

I am not a conspiracy theorist, but I do find it strange that, with all the crop land in the United States, both incidents happened in such close proximity involving two very different crops that are both offered in the export market. Is it coincidence or conspiracy? The one thing I do know is there are very strong feelings out there on both sides of this issue.

My thoughts on Samuelson Sez.