Two additional putative class actions have been filed against Monsanto Co., alleging that the recent discovery of genetically modified (GM) wheat on a farm in Oregon has harmed wheat farmers throughout the United States due to diminished prices “resulting from loss of export and domestic markets” and “increased grower costs resulting from the need to, inter alia, maintain the integrity of the soft white wheat supply and/or to keep genetically engineered wheat from further entering the general wheat supply and export channels.” Dreger Enters. v. Monsanto Co., No. 12-211 (U.S. Dist. Ct., E.D. Wash., Spokane, filed June 5, 2013); Ctr. for Food Safety v. Monsanto Co., No. 13-213 (U.S. Dist. Ct., E.D. Wash., filed June 6, 2013). Like the suit filed by a Kansas farmer, the plaintiffs allege nuisance, negligence and strict liability as to Monsanto’s conduct of field tests of GM wheat throughout the country from 1998 to 2005. Information about the other lawsuit appears in Issue 486 of this Update.
Meanwhile, a recent New York Times article reports that few were surprised about the discovery. Scientists do not yet know how the strain re-emerged in Oregon, but “[e]ven with extensive precautions, gene-altered plants turn up in unwanted places regularly enough that farmers have come to consider a few of them weeds, and even a threat to their livelihood.” Monsanto officials have characterized the appearance of the GM wheat as “a random isolated occurrence,” and most experts apparently agree that the wheat is not likely to spread elsewhere. Still, concerns about the transfer of GM traits to wild plants merit caution in approving GM crops, according to at least one environmental scholar. “There has always been a worry with wheat,” said Portland State University Professor David Ervin. “There’s going to be difficulty in controlling those grasses, and you might have to resort to stronger herbicide treatments, some of which have more environmental consequences.” See The New York Times, June 5, 2013.