The Importance of Wheat Exports to Oregon's Economy: 1000 Friends Statement on GMO Contamination

Over 600,000 acres of agricultural land in northeast Oregon, and thousands of Oregonians who depend on it, could be affected by the recent discovery of non-approved genetically-modified wheat in the region. This is an event that should concern all Oregonians, because it poses a major challenge to one of the state’s most crucial economic sectors: agriculture.

While the ultimate fallout from this incident is not yet clear, some have suggested that Oregon wheat farmers may have to undergo mandatory testing before exporting their products, and that they may have to pay for this testing.

1000 Friends of Oregon is deeply concerned by this prospect. The cost to Oregon’s agricultural economy should not be borne by Oregon wheat farmers alone.

“Agriculture is the second largest industry in Oregon, with wheat in particular supporting tens of thousands of jobs in Umatilla, Sherman, Gilliam, and Wheeler Counties, as well as the grain elevator, ports, and shipping companies in cities and towns around the state, “ said 1000 Friends Executive Director Jason Miner.

“The rolling wheat fields of Sherman County are an iconic part of Oregon’s landscape,” Miner continued. 

“Losing export markets for Oregon wheat undermines an industry that supports rural Oregon. Growing and exporting wheat has to be economically viable to keep land in farming and to keep eastern Oregon communities whole.”

As much as 90 percent of Oregon’s wheat crop is exported, and many countries refuse to accept exports that include genetically-modified crops.  The discovery of even a few plants with GMO origins is cause for grave concern about the entire industry’s future.

“We can’t stand idly by as these events occur,” Miner said. “The threat to Oregon’s wheat harvest and the farm land that makes that harvest possible should be met head on by elected officials and advocacy organizations.  The added cost to wheat growers from genetic testing or other measures that may be required should not fall exclusively on wheat farmers. Instead, we should focus on holding the responsible parties accountable for their actions."