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Altered eats



Because no state or federal labeling requirements presently cover GMOs, no certain way exists to determine if food bought in Central Oklahoma includes these ingredients. Environmentally conscious consumers can buy organic and read labels to avoid GMO-free food.

Genetic modifications have resulted in widely planted soybeans, corn and cotton seed referred to as “Roundup Ready,” because they have been genetically engineered to be unaffected by glyphosate, the active ingredient in Roundup, a broad-spectrum herbicide made by Monsanto.

While there is no mention of herbicides on its website titled “Monsanto Wheat Breeding,” there is mention of “an intensive effort to incorporate breakthrough breeding technologies — developed and deployed with notable success in other row crops — in wheat.” Monsanto’s wheatbreeding efforts have been under way since 2009 when it acquired WestBred, a company devoted to developing cereal grain seeds.

Despite insistence their motivations are well-intentioned, companies such as Monsanto, DuPont and Syngenta engaged in agricultural research and development have been met by local, national and international criticism that include assertions their intentions are far from benign.

In fact, a desire to monopolize crops is what drives the companies’ biochemical and genetic research, according to former state Sen. Paul Muegge, a wheat farmer from Tonkawa who served as chairman of the Oklahoma Senate Agriculture and Rural Development Committee.

“When I worked on the National Conference of State Legislators Agriculture Committee, and when we held meetings, we saw that company representatives were there for a very specific purpose: to make sure that no one questioned or would go the extent of passing laws or rules or regulations that would impede their progress,” Muegge said. “There would be more company representatives in the room than there were state legislators.

“It started out very innocuously, and they’d say, ‘Y’know, you guys who are questioning this, you just don’t know the science.’ At a later date, some of us said, ‘We’ve got a problem with this, because they want this to be a monopoly’ — that’s what they’re doing, that’s where they’re headed,” he said.


March 10, 2010, website reprinted a story
that reported at least seven U.S. state attorneys general were
investigating Monsanto for allegedly using its market share to dominate
its competitors and control the price of soybean and corn seed. The
article noted that the genetic traits of Monsanto’s Roundup Ready seed
line were in 93 percent of soybeans and 82 percent of corn produced in
the U.S. in 2009.

If they don’t want to buy the stuff, why are we pushing it?

—Scott Blubaugh

countered such assertions on its corporate website, stating that in
2008 in many places in the U.S., farmers could purchase corn or soybean
seed from as many as 20 different seed companies.

to DuPont spokeswoman Bridget Anderson, DuPont’s aim in its
seed-development efforts is to meet specific customer requests by
providing a wide variety of products.

Hi-Bred (a DuPont business) is focused on developing products that
provide our customers choices to meet their individual needs,” Anderson
wrote in a statement. “A majority of the corn and soybean products we
sell in the U.S. do contain biotech traits, as these are the products
that our customers are asking for to help better manage their farming
operations and improve their productivity.”


Minehart, head of corporate communications in North America for
Syngenta, a biochemical and seed development company, said in a written
statement that a primary purpose of his industry is to meet the rapidly
escalating global need for more food.

world’s population has grown nearly fourfold over the last century and
is projected to rise from more than 6.6 billion people today to more
than 8 billion by 2030 and 9 billion by 2050,” Minehart said. “Biotech
crops contributed (worldwide) production gains of 29.6 million metric
tons for soybeans, corn, cotton and canola in 2008. Higher-yielding
crops can help feed more people and boost incomes for poor farmers.”

fact, food security is often cited as the driving force behind biotech
expansion. Joe Neal Hampton, president of the Oklahoma Grain and Feed
Association and lobbyist for several agribusiness trade organizations,
said a growing global need is evolving for the development, distribution
and planting of genetically engineered wheat seed.

just not sure how we’re going to feed this world if we don’t have yield
enhancements to meet the growing need,” Hampton said. “Until the world
accepts GMO wheat, the wheat yields will never make the big gains,
percentage-wise, that corn and soybeans and cotton have.”

such concern, some people involved in local agriculture and food
distribution are skeptical of the economics associated with the use of
genetically enhanced seeds, because farmers who use such seed are
required under contract to buy a new supply each year, rather than
employ the age-old agricultural practice of holding back seed from the
previous year’s crop.

have to buy seed from (Monsanto) every year, you have to pay a patent
fee every year, and they decide what the fee is, and they’ve been
raising it consistently for several years,” said Scott Blubaugh, a
fifth-generation Kay County farmer and rancher. “It’s very expensive. If
you do keep your seed back, the fines are tremendous, and usually,
it’ll put those guys out of business. Those kinds of business practices
in agriculture are terrible, and I worry about the poor countries of the
world: There’s no way they can buy their seed every year.”

response to such criticism, Monsanto CEO Hugh Grant said as Roundup
Ready soybean seed patents expire in 2014, holding for future planting
seasons would be permissible. “Farmers will be free to plant, to replant
that seed,” Grant said in an interview published January 2010 on “Licensees will be able to do the same thing.”

the same article, Grant noted that Monsanto, the world’s largest
seedmaker, would follow a similar policy as the company’s other
biogenetic patents expire in the future.


Waldrop, a founder of the Oklahoma Sustainability Network and the
Oklahoma Food Cooperative, expressed concern that dependence on a small
number of genetically engineered seed varieties could reduce the natural
biodiversity that strengthens resistance to future crop diseases.

“You never know when a new plant disease is just going to spring out of nowhere,” Waldrop said.
“The more diverse your genetic stock, the more resilient that plant will
be to new diseases and threats like that.”

GMO wheat seed is still only in development, considerable international
resistance already exists to making such seeds available.

early 2010, the Organic Consumers Association reported that more than
200 consumer and farmer groups in 26 countries had signed a “rejection
statement” calling on Monsanto to halt any plans for the commercial
development of genetically modified wheat. Among the groups opposed to
its development is the National Family Farm Coalition.

wheat would contaminate our crops and food supply, and put an end to
organic grain production,” Dena Hoff, a representative of the National
Family Farm Coalition, said in the OCA story. “Monsanto is sorely
mistaken if they think farmers will ever accept GM wheat.”


is Oklahoma’s largest cash crop, bringing in $1.2 billion in 2008,
according to the USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service Oklahoma
Field Office. Mike Schulte of the Oklahoma Wheat Commission thinks the
market will continue to grow and hopes Oklahoma wheat producers can provide.

can look in the marketplace right now and see volatility compared to
what we saw five or 10 years ago.” In 2010, 23.6 billion bushels of
wheat were produced globally, but 24.3 billion bushels were consumed,
with stored wheat making up the difference, Schulte said, adding the
disparity will increase because of population growth and reduction in
arable land.

“We’re going to have to be able to grow more bushels with less land available,” he said.

But Blubaugh thinks GMO wheat is an unnecessary risk and feels adequately equipped with the status quo.

Oklahoma, I don’t need a Roundup Ready wheat; we’ve got lots of other
herbicides that we can use today, without genetically modifying the
crop. So in Oklahoma, we don’t even have the need for it here,” Blubaugh
said. “My biggest fear is that, rightly or wrongly, if your customers —
that’s the world wheat market — if they don’t want to buy the stuff,
why are we pushing it? It’ll upset the world wheat market, because
nobody in the world is gonna want to buy our wheat.”

he formerly planted Roundup Ready soybeans, Blubaugh said he stopped
for two reasons: The weeds in his fields were becoming resistant to the
pesticide, and by not having to pay the annual seed patent fee required
by Monsanto, he makes more money from his soybean crop.

went back and bought some conventional seeds that are public varieties
that the universities devel- oped years and years ago, and I think I’m
doing just as well on my yields,” he said. “You can’t control the weeds
as well; I’ll admit that right up front. And
you drive by my fields — and they’re not gonna look as pretty as the
Roundup fields my neighbors have — but at the end of the day, I’ve got
more money.”

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