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Originally published June 6, 2013 at 6:35 PM | Page modified June 7, 2013 at 1:49 PM

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Farms in state sue Monsanto over wheat

Washington farms are suing Monsanto, saying soft white wheat farmers already have suffered from genetically modified wheat being found in an Oregon field. They are seeking class-action status for soft white wheat farmers in the Northwest.

Seattle Times business reporter

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Two wheat farms in Eastern Washington filed a lawsuit Thursday against agricultural giant Monsanto, claiming their business has been damaged by the discovery of genetically modified wheat in Oregon.

The suit, filed in U.S. District Court in Spokane, seeks class-action status and damages to be determined by the court.

Separately, the Center for Food Safety filed a lawsuit in the same court Thursday also seeking class-action status for Northwest wheat farmers. Its fellow plaintiffs are Clarmar Farms and wheat farmer Tom Stahl, both of Douglas County

The actions come after the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) said last week that a farmer in Oregon found genetically modified wheat in his field almost a decade after Monsanto stopped testing that type of wheat.

The two Washington farms in the first suit — Wahl Ranch in Adams County and Dreger Enterprises in Lincoln County — grow soft white wheat, the variety prevalent in the Northwest and the type grown by the Oregon farmer who found a genetically modified strain in his field.

As a result of the discovery, Japan stopped its customary order of soft white wheat last week.

“We’ve seen a drop in future and current cash prices on wheat already, and at least one shipment of wheat turned away or refused. We think this is actual damage,” said Kim Stephens, a partner at Tousley Brain Stephens in Seattle, one of two firms representing the farms. The other is the Hausfeld, a Washington, D.C., firm.

Monsanto Chief Litigation Counsel Kyle McClain said in an emailed statement that there is “scant basis for a lawsuit.”

“While we have not yet had the opportunity to review the lawsuit,” McClain said, “plaintiff’s filing suit now is premature since the facts to date show the report of [Roundup]-tolerant wheat is limited to one field in Oregon, and no such wheat has entered the stream of commerce.

“USDA has said the wheat crop is safe, [the Food and Drug Administration] confirmed food and feed safety in 2004, and USDA has stated repeatedly that there is no indication that glyphosate-tolerant wheat has entered commerce.”

Melissa Allison: 206-464-3312 or mallison@seattletimes.com. Twitter @AllisonSeattle.

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