By Aaron Dykes and Melissa Melton
How did genetically modified wheat escape and taint the fields of American farmers? The unsettling case remains unexplained, but traces back to a USDA seed vault.
According a recent article in the Denver Post, the unapproved strain of genetically modified (GM) wheat that tainted fields in Oregon and prompted a lawsuit from farmers was, in fact, being stored in a government seed bank in Fort Collins, Colorado.
This location is the National Center for Genetic Resources Preservation (NGCRP), operated by the USDA on the Colorado State University campus and formerly known as the National Seed Storage Laboratory (NSSL). It sits nearby the USDA’s Crop Research Laboratory. The NGCRP serves a seed bank and “a repository for animal genetic resources in the form of semen and plant genetic resources in the form of graftable buds or in vitro plantlets.”
This facility began storing Monsanto’s GM wheat strains starting in 2004, but it claims to have destroyed them as of January 2012. Did this USDA facility play a role in the escape of unapproved GM wheat?
Ed Curlett, a spokesperson for the USDA, said, “Whatever seed Monsanto sent to the repository was incinerated.” That agency’s claim is currently being investigated for validation, but, where there’s smoke, there’s typically fire.
Reuters obtained documents indicating that the USDA’s National Center for Genetic Resources Preservation took possession of “at least 43 physical containers of Monsanto’s so-called ‘Roundup Ready’ wheat in late 2004 and early 2005.”