Scientists unswayed by Monsanto’s conclusions on rogue wheat

Random Occurrence

The company’s tests show the genetically modified variety isn’t present in the types of seeds planted on the Oregon farm or in the wheat seed typically grown in Oregon and Washington, Robb Fraley, the company’s chief technology officer, said yesterday on a call with reporters.

“It seems likely to be a random, isolated occurrence more consistent with the accidental or purposeful mixing of a small amount of seed during the planting, harvesting or during the fallow cycle in an individual field,” Fraley said on the call.

Scientists say they are befuddled about how this wheat could have gotten into the field after so many years.

“We can’t come up with any great logical explanation for what happened,” Mallory-Smith said in an interview. “You introduce something into the environment, and genes move around in the environment, whether transgenic or not.”

Upstream Crossing

Norman Ellstrand, a genetic researcher at the University of California, Riverside, said the genetic crossing likely occurred “upstream.”

One of the farmer’s seed lots probably had been contaminated, he said before Monsanto released its findings yesterday. “There is a reasonable likelihood that that wasn’t the only bag that was mixed.”

After Monsanto’s presentation, he added: It’s “hard to say whether the entire U.S. wheat seed supply has zero transgenes, but obviously, if present, the transgenes are at a very low level.”

Some Monsanto opponents may have planted seeds they obtained without authorization from a field trial to cause trade disruptions and build opposition to gene-altered food, said Val Giddings, a senior fellow at the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation, a Washington-based non-profit think tank.

“What we are starting to do is knock down all the competing possibilities, and one of those that remain standing, the sore thumb sticking up, involves something deliberate,” said Giddings, who helped regulate engineered crops at the USDA for eight years in the 1990s.

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