UPDATE: The Washington Department of Agriculture has found that the GM strains came from seed the farmer planed in his field.
The testing found a “low-level presence of a Round-Up Ready genetic trait in the seed,” the WSDA said.
The tests eliminate the possibility that the farmer’s field was cross-pollinated by nearby farm growing GMO alfalfa, which is banned in some foreign marketplaces.
“We now know how it got in the field: He planted it,” said Hector Castro, Department of Agriculture spokesman.
Castro said he had not seen how the seeds were labeled, so could not say whether the farmer was misled when he bought the seeds.
“WSDA is in discussions with USDA to determine whether any further action is warranted,” the department said in a statement.
In an episode sure to play big in this falls fight over GMO labeling, Reuters this morning is reporting that the state Agriculture Department is investigating how GMO alfalfa cropped up in a non-GMO farm.
The investigation comes after a farmer who grows non-GMO saw his crops rejected for export.
Many nations, including Japan and South Korea, don’t allow imports of GMO crops.
It’s no secret that the vote on I-522, which would require food containing GMO ingredients to be labeled in Washington, stands to be a referendum on GMO technology itself. Opponents of the ballot measure are sure to trot out the benefits of GMO in general; opponents are sure to highlight the complications they bring to ag exports and food safety.
This case stands to benefit the latter camp in the court of public opinion.
Opponents of genetically engineered crops point to cross-pollination as a strike against the bio-technology. Not only do airborne seed threaten farmers looking to export their crops to foreign nations or otherwise market their crops as non-GMO, but since the seeds are patented by bio-tech companies, farmers can be subject to royalty charges from Monsanto and others if it’s shown they are growing crops with their patented genome.
According to Reuters, it’s unclear whether the Washington farmer was sold GMO seeds without his knowledge or if his field was cross-pollinated by a neighboring farm.