Biotech wheat litigation goes into mediation

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The lawsuits against Monsanto over the unapproved release of genetically modified wheat have been put on hiatus as farmers and the company have agreed to enter mediation.

Several farmers filed lawsuits against Monsanto in 2013 after “volunteer” wheat plants were found in an Oregon field that were genetically modified to withstand glyphosate herbicide. No biotech varieties of wheat have been approved for the U.S. market. Monsanto developed and tested a biotech wheat variety several years ago, but the USDA never deregulated the variety after multiple global markets said they would not accept and GM wheat variety.

The discovery of the GM wheat last year led to Japan and South Korea closing their markets to U.S. wheat, which cost many farmers significantly.

The USDA’s investigation into how the GM wheat got into the Oregon field is still ongoing.

All of the lawsuits filed were consolidated before a federal judge in Kansas who recently agreed to stay the proceedings while Monsanto and the growers enter mediation.

The Capital Press reported that U.S. District Judge Kathryn Vratil, who is overseeing the consolidated case in Kansas, said the parties “agreed to a tight and aggressive timeline” and noted the mediation should help “in identifying and narrowing the issues” even if a settlement isn’t reached.

A lead attorney for the farmers said the initial mediation session will last about 10 hours, but it’s unknown what will happen afterward. The mediation process, unlike arbitration, will not bind the parties to any resolution, the attorney said.


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