Monsanto Settles Some Lawsuits Related to GMO Wheat Discovery in 2013

(St. Louis Post-Dispatch/MCT) -

Monsanto Co. said Wednesday it has settled several lawsuits related to the discovery last year of genetically modified wheat in an Oregon field.

The incident created brief havoc in the global wheat market, with Japan and South Korea temporarily halting purchases of U.S. wheat. The U.S. exports roughly half of its wheat, with much of it going to countries with zero-tolerance policies toward genetically modified grains.

The crisis lasted only a few months, however, as buyers were assured that no modified grains had infiltrated the commercial pipeline.

The agreement announced Wednesday covers lawsuits by soft white wheat farmers in Oregon, Washington and Idaho. It does not cover lawsuits filed by growers of other types of wheat.

Farmers who sold wheat from May 30, 2013 to Nov. 30, 2013 will be eligible for payments from a $2.125 million settlement fund. Monsanto also agreed to divide $250,000 among several wheat growers’ associations, including the National Wheat Foundation. The company also will pay a portion of the farmers’ legal expenses.

“Resolution in this manner is reasonable and in the best interests of all the parties,” Kyle McClain, chief litigation counsel for Creve Coeur, Mo.-based Monsanto, said in a statement.

Another rogue patch of GMO wheat was discovered in September in Montana, but quick assurances by the U.S. Department of Agriculture seemed to head off similar problems with overseas buyers.

Both incidents involved seeds that were part of earlier research by Monsanto related to creating wheat resistant to the company’s popular Roundup herbicide.

There is no commercially approved GMO wheat, though Monsanto and its competitors are currently working on it.