Modified wheat creates more questions than answers for Northwest farmers

Wheat ready for harvest near Tioga, N.D.

Unapproved genetically engineered wheat was discovered in a field in Oregon yesterday. It is not believed to have entered the foods supply but wheat farmers in the region -- and the folks that buy the wheat grown there -- are alarmed.

“We export almost 90 percent of the wheat we grow in the Pacific Northwest,” says Andy Suess, a wheat farmer in Colfax, Wa. He sells to countries in the Pacific basin including Japan, South Korea and Taiwan. “One of the first things we did when found out about this situation we got on the phone with them and we’re working with those customers to assure them, we’re trying to stay on top of this.”

And he says so far, customers are staying loyal. He says buyers from Japan placed an order and “them being our number one customer, I think this speaks volumes.”

Suess says finding GMO wheat in Oregon was a surprise because “it’s almost all going into the food channels,” not being used to feed livestock.

He hopes to have more answers soon. The USDA has sent nine agents to Oregon to investigate. It’s impossible to tell GMO from non-GMO wheat plants without testing them.

For now, Seuss says he’s got more questions than answers.

About the author

Kai Ryssdal is the host and senior editor of Marketplace, public radio’s program on business and the economy.

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