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GE wheat – detected early, safe, so what’s the fuss?

A farmer in Oregon notices volunteer wheat in a field. It survives an application of glyphosate. The farmer calls on an Oregon State University professor, who tests the wheat. It appears to contain an unapproved GE trait, glyphosate-resistance. USDA confirms that it does, and starts an investigation.

Japan temporarily suspends import tenders for U.S. western white wheat for food and feed until a testing methodology is established. And the Oregon wheat sprouts have yet to even produce a seed head.

Listening to the clamor going down at the Environmental Working Group, you’d have thought a nuclear reactor melted down.

Clearly another reason why we need labeling of foods, said Scott Faber, of EWG. “While it is unclear whether any of this wheat got into the food supply, the fact is, GE foods have entered the American food supply at an astounding rate over the past 16 years and show no signs of stopping. These foods continue to show up on store shelves without any adequate long-term studies.

 “This latest investigation in Oregon raises new concerns for consumers who have already lost faith in the federal government’s ability to regulate GE crops. The regulatory system for these crops was created more than 20 years ago and needs to be fixed.”

The discovery of unapproved GE wheat does raise concerns. But not because it’s dangerous or because something horrific would happen if by some wild chance a grain or two somehow made it into commerce. The stuff is harmless, for Pete’s sake.

The real worry is that humans continue to manufacture phony boogeymen so readily. We won’t tolerate a harmless GMO on our fork, but willingly gulp down nonsense by the bucket.

There’s not a single legitimate reason why we should be up in arms over a few immature GE wheat plants. Yet, we conjure up the remotest possible outcomes and put every single U.S. wheat farmer at risk of financial ruin.

I doubt that Faber condemned the global organic industry when E. coli-tainted bean sprouts from one farm actually did get into commerce a few years ago, killing 31 people in Europe and sickening thousands of others. And he shouldn’t have either. The incident was investigated, the farm isolated, the produce recalled and eliminated, and new safeguards put in place. Governments have regulatory and investigative units on hand to make sure our food supply remains safe. They’ve done a good job to date, considering agriculture feeds nearly 7 billion souls every day.

I would ask Mr. Faber to consider two bowls before him. One bowl contains cereal that may contain GMO wheat in infinitesimal amounts. The other bowl contains organic bean sprouts that might harbor E. coli. Which spoonful would give him most pause?