What Does Genetically Modified Wheat Portend?

Unapproved Roundup Ready wheat has been found in Oregon. Is there more to this than the fight between health-conscious consumers and big business?

Unlike some stories, the facts in this most recent food fight are generally agreed upon by all parties. Here is the story in a nutshell:

  • “About a month ago, a farmer in eastern Oregon noticed some wheat plants growing where he didn’t expect them, and they didn’t die when he sprayed them with Roundup. The farmer sent samples of these curious plants to Carol Mallory-Smith, a scientist at Oregon State University who has investigated other cases in which genetically engineered crops spread beyond their approved boundaries. She found that this wheat was, in fact, genetically engineered. She passed samples on to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which confirmed her results” (National Public Radio, May 30, 2013, “GMO Wheat Found in Oregon Field. How Did It Get There?”).
  • “WICHITA, Kan. (AP)—A Kansas farmer has sued seed giant Monsanto over last week’s discovery of genetically engineered experimental wheat in an 80-acre field in Oregon, claiming the company’s gross negligence hurt U.S. growers by driving down wheat prices and causing some international markets to suspend certain imports” (USA TODAY, June 4, 2013, “Monsanto Sued Over Genetically Modified Wheat”).

Different perspectives

Beyond these basic facts, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Monsanto Company, farmers and health-conscious consumers each have their own perspectives on genetically engineered crops.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture claims that it is responsibly helping farmers and food consumers with its decisions to approve genetically engineered crops. Although this agency has not approved the growing and marketing of genetically engineered wheat, it has previously given its approval for genetically engineered soybeans, corn and canola. This agency says that the consumption of genetically engineered foods has no negative effects upon humans.

The economic benefit to farmers growing genetically engineered crops instead of traditional non-genetically engineered crops has been substantial. Due to higher yields and lower costs of production because of improved weed control, it is estimated that in 2011 farmers raising genetically engineered crops received an income of $329 more per acre than they would have received had they planted non-genetically engineered crops.

As the producer and patent holder of many varieties of genetically engineered seed, Monsanto Company is proud of its use of biotechnology to increase profits for farmers and produce larger crops to help feed the world’s burgeoning population. To protect its profits and intellectual property, this company has aggressively sued farmers found to be growing genetically engineered crops who did not purchase their seed.

Even though Monsanto legally conducted experimental tests of genetically engineered wheat in multiple states between 1998 and 2005, it claims that it meticulously followed all protocols established by the government. As such, it claims no legal liability for the genetically engineered wheat growing in Oregon.

Most U.S. farmers are businessmen looking for cost-effective ways to increase their income. Genetically engineered crops are widely accepted by this group because of their economic advantage. But here’s the problem. There is absolutely no economic advantage to growing a bumper crop of wheat that no one will buy.

Estimates are that approximately half of the wheat grown in the U.S. is exported to other countries, many of whom will not purchase genetically engineered crops. Due to the recent disclosure of genetically engineered wheat being found in Oregon, Japan has suspended some imports and South Korea has said that it will increase its inspections of U.S. wheat imports.

Some health-conscious consumers, food advocates and other countries have a very negative view of genetically engineered foods. Buoyed by Food, Inc., a 94-minute 2008 documentary that provides a scathing critique of America’s corporately controlled food industry, many now view Monsanto Company as the face of all that is wrong with modern agriculture. As International Business Times reported, “It’s official: Monsanto Company (NYSE:MON) has been deemed the ‘most evil corporation’ of 2013 in a new poll that has the biotech giant beating out rivals like McDonald’s and the Federal Reserve by a wide margin” (June 10, 2013).

Reflecting their disrespect for this organization, a “March Against Monsanto” protest was held on Saturday, May 25. Organizers say that it was supported by upwards of 2 million people in 52 countries.

Opponents of genetically engineered foods are not convinced that it has been adequately proven safe for human consumption and question its long-term impact upon the environment. Others are concerned about the growing power of businesses that create and sell genetically engineered seed, especially in developing countries. As a result, local initiatives in many states are calling for labeling on food products to indicate whether genetically engineered food ingredients are included.

Blessings and curses

With so many points of view, most people have not even considered the possibility that genetically engineered foods may have a connection with biblical prophecy.

God told ancient Israel, “If you walk in My statutes and keep My commandments, and perform them, then I will give you rain in its season, the land shall yield its produce, and the trees of the field shall yield their fruit. Your threshing shall last till the time of vintage, and the vintage shall last till the time of sowing; you shall eat your bread to the full, and dwell in your land safely” (Leviticus 26:3-5).

Prosperity was promised as a result of obedience.

But if Israel were to disobey, God said the result would be very different. “But if you do not obey Me … you shall sow your seed in vain” (verses 14, 16). Disobedience leads to a whole list of curses, from financial difficulties to military defeat.

In ancient Israel, disobedience to God eventually allowed enemies to eat the crops her farmers had planted. Could U.S. farmers today likewise be sowing their seed in vain—except this time because no one will buy their crops?

Time will tell what will happen regarding genetically engineered wheat and crops in general. But of even greater importance is what God thinks regarding the conduct of America’s citizens. See “Why Is God Angry With America?” for details.

About the Author

David Treybig

David Treybig

David Treybig is a husband, father and grandfather. He and his wife, Teddi, have two grown children and seven grandchildren. He currently pastors the Austin, Texas, congregation of the Church of God, a Worldwide Association. He has served in the pastoral ministry for over 40 years, pastoring congregations across six states.

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