Ms. Brown decided to work late one night in the lab. She walked quickly through the dark, empty halls on her way back from the ladies room. She unlocked the door to her empty corner of the lab, fumbling an oversized handbag in one hand and an electronic keycard in the other. As she set her bag down on the counter, Brown noticed a closet door she swore was closed when she left was now slightly ajar.

Her initial feeling of being alone was quickly replaced by the creepy sensation of being watched. Paranoia started to set in. She grabbed a heavy glass flask (the only weapon at her disposal) and tiptoed toward the closet door. As quietly as she could, Brown reached for the door handle, glanced over her shoulder and…an enraged organic farmer with an insane look in his eye jumped out from under the lab bench and made a break for the exit, stealing some secret genetically modified seeds from her precious stores in the Monsanto lab!

Ladies and gentlemen, this story is one of fiction, but the sentiments are not. Could Monsanto be the victim of sabotage?  

The Tap Dance
Many of us read with interest the news in late May that unapproved genetically modified wheat was found growing on an Oregon farm. The Roundup-resistant wheat should have been out of fields for years. The wheat was tested in Oregon from 1998 to 2005 by Monsanto, when the company let the project fall by the wayside. Commercial planting was never approved.

While Monsanto claims it had no idea the grain was still growing, it was. And countries like Japan and South Korea are so anti-modified products that they are turning away American-grown wheat. This is not a light issue. U.S. wheat exports totaled $8.1 billion in 2012, so we’re talking about a huge loss if countries won’t accept our wheat. In fact, this is the entire reason why Monsanto dropped the project in the first place; to protect U.S. exports.

Now, U.S. officials are trying to determine how this crop is happily growing today in the fields of Oregon. Until some answers come to light, Monsanto is shamelessly trying to shape the conversation.

First, it claimed that any infiltration of modified wheat into the normal supply chain is “very limited,” so we shouldn’t worry about it. (Okay, everyone, listen to Monsanto: Put on your blinders and pretend everything is fine!).

Next, Monsanto said that it is conducting its own investigation into the matter and “is prepared to take actions once the investigation results are known to ensure that its farmer customers and the broader wheat industry remains strong.” (I’m feeling better already, aren’t you? Monsanto, its mighty cape flapping in the wind, is on the scene to protect the innocent from harm.)

Then, the biotech giant assured the nail-biting masses that there’s no reason to be concerned. The field where the wheat was found wasn’t where the testing had taken place, and the company has rigorous processes for closing out test fields. (Right…genetically modified crops could never, ever spread to another field. That’s absolutely unheard of!)

All this came from press statements on Monsanto’s Web site. But the next attempt to confuse the public came from a June 5 tele-press conference: A spiteful individual may have “purposely” mixed the modified seed into the supply chain, sabotaging the unsuspecting Monsanto. “We’re considering all options and that’s certainly one of the options,” Monsanto Chief Technology Officer Robb Farley said. (Gasp! Say it ain’t so, Monsanto!)

While sabotage isn’t high on my list of likely explanations for this disaster, I firmly believe Monsanto should watch its back. The U.S. people are speaking loud and clear. Most aren’t comfortable with GMOs, and many support labeling of some kind. There’s a chain reaction going on around America that started in California and has spread to Connecticut and Maine where GMO labeling bills have been passed. Americans are paying close attention to this issue and are slowly but surely trying to weed Monsanto out of their lives. WF

Kaylynn Chiarello-Ebner
Editor/Associate Publisher

Published in WholeFoods Magazine, July 2013