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Local News

Senator Merkley writes letter to Ag Secretary


 

Here is a news release sent to media Friday morning:

 

 

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                                         Contact: Matt McNally
May 31, 2013                                                                                          

Merkley: USDA Must Give Guidance to Oregon Wheat Growers Within 10 Days

Merkley says review of GMO field-testing practices at USDA needed

 

Washington, DC- Today, Oregon’s Senator Jeff Merkley called on Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack to give guidance to Oregon wheat growers on how ensure their product is marketable and meets the needs of their customers, following the discovery of genetically modified wheat engineered by Monsanto found in eastern Oregon. Merkley says their guidance must be given within 10 days, before the Oregon wheat harvest starts. Yesterday, Japan announced it had halted their purchase of Oregon wheat, illustrating need for quick action by USDA.

 

“USDA must move forward quickly with its investigation to determine how genetically engineered wheat arrived in this farmer’s field, and provide clear guidance to the wheat farmers throughout the Northwest to ensure that their product is marketable and meets the specifications of their customers.  In order to put the appropriate measures in place before the upcoming wheat harvest, USDA must provide this guidance within the next 10 days.”

 

Merkley also noted that “this incident underscores the need for an agency review of field-testing practices to determine how to avoid this situation in the future.”

 

Merkley led an effort last week to repeal the “Monsanto Protection Act,” a rider quietly and anonymously dropped into a must-pass spending bill in March that stripped federal courts of their ability to require more thorough safety review for some genetically modified seeds. 

 

The text of the letter is below.

 

 

Dear Secretary Vilsack,

As you know, genetically modified  “Roundup Ready” wheat engineered by Monsanto was recently found in a wheat field in eastern Oregon.   Because there are no genetically engineered strains of wheat approved for sale in the United States, and there are countries that specifically restrict the import of genetically engineered foods, this incident has the potential to cause significant market disruptions if swift action is not taken to address the situation. 

In Oregon, 85-90% of the wheat grown is exported, most of which goes to Asian markets.   In 2011, this exported wheat was valued at over half a billion dollars.  Yesterday, Japan announced it would temporarily suspend imports of western white wheat and feed wheat from the U.S., and cancel a purchase of 24,936 metric tons of white wheat.

Within the next two weeks, farmers in Oregon will begin harvesting their wheat crops.  These wheat growers need to know what they can do to ensure that their product is marketable and will meet the needs of their customers in the Asian markets. 

USDA must move forward quickly with its investigation to determine how genetically engineered wheat arrived in this farmer’s field, and provide clear guidance to the wheat farmers throughout the Northwest to ensure that their product is marketable and meets the specifications of their customers.  In order to put the appropriate measures in place before the upcoming wheat harvest, USDA must provide this guidance within the next 10 days.

While it is still unclear how this wheat arrived in this farmer’s field, this incident underscores the need for an agency review of field-testing practices to determine how to avoid this situation in the future.

Sincerely,


Senator Jeff A. Merkley

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