Saying that it hoped to avoid an “extended legal battle,” the Monsanto company has agreed to pony up a couple million dollars to settle with wheat farmers over crops that were contaminated by genetically modified wheat.
The farmers, based in the Pacific Northwest, will be compensated nearly $2.4 million to settle a dispute with the St. Louis-based agrochemical giant after GMO wheat was found in Oregon fields in 2013.
What made the discovery so perplexing was that GMO wheat has not even been approved for commercial U.S. farming as of yet, but it still found its way into the farmers’ crops, most likely from experimental test plots.
As is often the case with issues of GMO contamination, foreign markets were none-too-pleased. In this case, Japan and South Korea decided to temporarily suspend their wheat orders while more rigorous testing was demanded by the European Union.
According to the Associated Press, $2.1 million of the money will be distributed to a settlement fund that will pay farmers in Oregon, Washington and Idaho who sold soft white wheat from the end of May til the end of November 2013.
In addition, $250,000 will go to four different wheat growers’ associations.
Contamination Source Still Unknown
In September the USDA said that it believed the incident was isolated; the source of the contamination still has not been found, however.
Genetically modified organisms are labeled in over 60 countries worldwide but the United States does not require them.
The lack of transparency and traceability combined with the growing number of GMO test plots has led many organic farmers to feel as though their livelihoods are being threatened by the specter of contamination.
So far, the USDA and other government agencies have done little to assure them that incidents like these won’t happen again in the future.