Why GE Labeling is Important for Washington’s Wheat Industry

There is no genetically engineered (GE) wheat approved for commercial production in the U.S., but Washington wheat farmers are hurt by the unintended consequences of GE wheat.

Washington is one of the nation’s largest producers of wheat

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  • Washington is the 4th largest wheat producing state in the nation with more than 2.2 million acres of wheat in production.
  • Washington produced 146.3 million bushels of wheat in 2012 and was responsible for 48 percent of the wheat produced in the Pacific Northwest.
  • In 2011, Washington’s wheat industry accounted for more than $1 billion in production value for the state’s economy.

Washington jobs depend on a prosperous wheat industry

  • There are roughly 5,000 active wheat growers in Washington, but about 11,000 people own wheat-growing land in the state.
  • More than 25,000 Washington jobs are tied to the wheat farming industry.
  • Nearly all the wheat farms in Washington are owned and operated by families. Family wheat farms are one of the largest economic drivers of jobs in Eastern Washington.

Washington’s major trading partners already require GE labeling

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  • While half the nation’s wheat crop is exported, 85 to 90 percent of Washington wheat is sold overseas.
  • More than 41 percent of all U.S. white wheat comes from Washington. In 2011, Asia imported 70 percent of the U.S.’s white wheat, followed by Egypt at 11 percent.
  • According to the Washington State Department of Agriculture, Japan is the state’s largest wheat customer. In 2012, Japan imported 25 percent of Washington’s wheat worth $678.4 million.
  • In 2012, Japan was the largest importer of western white wheat at 914.5 thousand metric tons, followed by Thailand, Taiwan, and the Philippines.
  • Japan, Thailand, and Taiwan all require GE products to be labeled.

GE wheat experiments have adversely impacted Washington farmers

  • In May 2013, the USDA announced unapproved GE wheat from a Monsanto commercial wheat trial had contaminated an Oregon farm field.
  • Shortly after the USDA announcement, Japan, South Korea, and Taiwan suspended imports of wheat from the U.S.
  • After five weeks, Taiwan resumed imports of U.S. wheat in June 2013. After 2 months, South Korea resumed imports of our wheat and, as of late July 2013, Japan was beginning to buy our wheat again after exhaustive tests by USDA.
  • Wheat farmers in Kansas and Washington filed lawsuits against Monsanto for failing to protect the U.S. wheat market from unauthorized GE contamination.
  • According to The Associated Press, a 2005 study estimated the U.S. wheat industry could lose $94 to $272 million annually if GE wheat was introduced.