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GM Creeping into U.S. Wheat

Traces of genetically modified grains are turning up in U.S. wheat, despite the fact that the sale of GM wheat has not been approved here yet. GM soybeans and corn, the two most widely grown genetically modified crops in the world, are getting into wheat supplies that are made into flour that's used to make bread and other foods.

When U.S. wheat has been tested recently at Rank Hovis, the largest miller in the U.K. and an importer of U.S. wheat, traces of GM soybeans and corn particles were found mixed in with it. Director Peter Jones says, "We routinely find (soy)beans and (corn) and we must accept that these are genetically modified." The U.K. is one of the countries that refuses to import GM foods.

The U.S. admits that it will be hard to keep GM and non-GM wheat strains separate from each other. "We've already got GM contamination in wheat in small levels from non-GM sources," says one U.S. milling source. "If we can't keep the corn and soybeans out of the wheat, how are we going to keep the GM wheat out of the wheat?"

GM material mixes with the wheat as it's milled, stored and transported, in systems that handle many different kinds of grain, both GM and non-GM. Four years ago, Thailand found that a shipment of U.S. wheat was contaminated by GM corn. The European Union imports about 2 million tons of wheat from the U.S. and Canada annually, and many European grain companies have developed tests to determine the presence of as little as 0.1% of GM material.

"The slightest little detection can complicate wheat shipments going out of this country," says Steven Tanner, of the U.S. Grain Inspection Packers Stockyards Administration. "The question comes down to what is reasonable. If you're going to say zero tolerance you might as well stop world trade."

As we've said before on unknowncountry, the problem is not so much that GM crops may cause allergies (although that is a concern). The problem is that genetically-engineered foods tend to take over, and mix with, standard crops to the extent that GM varieties may become the only ones we have. Then if something goes wrong with the GM crop, that food could vanish unless earlier strains can be reestablished. Since Monsanto is creating GM versions of some of the staple foods on the Earth?wheat, soy and corn?this could cause famine in areas that rely on those foods.

Meanwhile, Monsanto is pressing hard for permission to release a genetically-modified form of wheat in the U.S. and Canada. If only the folks there could get a little more wisdom.

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