Genetically modified wheat found in Oregon spurs international backlash

(CBS News) An international backlash against U.S. agricultural practices is building in response to the discovery of genetically modified wheat on a farm in Oregon.

Commercial farming of genetically modified wheat is banned in the United States. The practice is primarily not allowed because about half of America's wheat is sold overseas and many foreign countries prohibit the import of genetically modified foods.

So when modified wheat was discovered recently on a small farm in Oregon, the response from U.S. trading partners was fierce. Japan, the number one buyer of U.S. wheat, suspended some imports, as did South Korea.

Korean scientists are testing their U.S. wheat for signs of genetic modification and the European Union is also urging its 27 member nations to test American wheat.

It's not known how the modified wheat got into the Oregon field. Genetically it's the same wheat that Monsanto tested for possible commercial use in 16 states including Oregon a decade ago.

In a statement the food giant says the presence now of any modified wheat from their experiment is "unexpected" and likely to be "very limited."

The U.S. Department of Agriculture is investigating the situation but said in a statement "the detection of this wheat variety does not pose a food safety concern."

However, not everyone agrees that genetically modified crops are safe. Last weekend in hundreds of cities around the world there were protests against Monsanto's leading role in genetically modified foods.

"There's not hard evidence that genetically modified crops are safe for human consumption because they've never really been tested that way," Center for Food Safety policy director Jaydee Hanson said.

The genetically modified wheat that Monsanto tested in Oregon was tested by the FDA in 2004 and found to be safe. But the Center for Food Safety says there has never been the kind of long-term testing needed to determine if wheat and other genetically modified foods are safe.

For Chip Reid's full report, watch the video in the player above.

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