Agribusiness monopoly Monsanto is facing class action lawsuits after its genetically modified wheat was found in areas it was never approved to be in. Monsanto still claims it is mystified and that all its experimental GMO wheat was destroyed.

The search for the rogue wheat is still ongoing. The GMO wheat, labeled MON 71800, was field tested by Monsanto in 16 states from 1998 to 2005. Among the states where tests were conducted was Oregon.

Monsanto had engineered 71800 to be resistant to glyphosate, the active ingredient in Roundup, which it also manufactures. It had conceived the seed as a companion product to the herbicide. But it discontinued 71800, the company says, to focus on corn, cotton, and oilseeds.

No one could say where the 71800 came from, but it appeared to have migrated from one of Monsanto’s test plots. But how? And were there other farm fields pocked by GMO wheat? Had seeds of 71800 taken a ride on a container ship across the Pacific?

Not exactly comforting to American wheat consumers or producers. The American wheat export business is worth $8 billion and neither Europe nor Asia is interested in accepting GMO crops grown outside controls. This, along with Monsanto’s political power, perhaps explains the secrecy around the story.

Determining the extent of the rogue crop was clearly an urgent matter, but also one the USDA and Monsanto decided should be handled out of the public eye. The government has kept the location of the field secret, even in discussions with Oregon State scientists. Monsanto refuses to disclose the locations of its former 71800 test sites, and the farmer himself has elected to remain anonymous.

So we still don’t know where the “abandoned” franken-wheat came from and Monsanto isn’t talking. If MON 71800 escaped the lab then what other abandoned experiments did/could? If the planting was deliberate, who did it and why? Is it safe to eat the wheat?

Meanwhile it’s lunchtime. Bon appetit!