Monsanto has reached a $2.375 million settlement agreement with wheat growers' associations and farmers to resolve lawsuits stemming from the 2013 discovery of an unapproved GMO wheat variety found growing in an Oregon field.
The GMO wheat discovery in May, 2013, resulted in closure of some export markets to soft white wheat from the U.S.
In the Monsanto settlement, announced Wednesday, a total of $250,000 will go to the wheat associations while $2.125 million will be awarded to farmers in Washington, Oregon and Idaho who sold soft white wheat between May 30, 2013, and Nov. 30, 2013.
The settlement was negotiated to avoid the costs of protracted litigation, said Kyle McClain, Monsanto chief litigation counsel.
"This agreement puts that money to work in research and development efforts for the wheat industry, while providing a negotiated level of compensation for farmers with documented soft white wheat sales," McClain said in a press statement. "Resolution in this manner is reasonable and in the best interest of all of the parties."
In the event that any portion of the settlement fund remains after claims are paid, up to $250,000 of the remainder will be added as donations to the wheat groups. As part of the resolution of these claims, Monsanto said it also will reimburse plaintiffs' counsel for a portion of their out-of-pocket costs and fees associated with this litigation.
"We believe this is a unique and fair mechanism for resolving the claims of soft white wheat farmers," said James Pizzirusso, an attorney for the farmers.
The settlement, Monsanto said, will not resolve claims that remain pending by wheat growers who grew a type of wheat other than soft white wheat.
Wheat groups receiving the funds include the National Wheat Foundation, Washington Association of Wheat Growers, the Oregon Wheat Growers' League, and the Idaho Grain Producers' Association.
The investigation concluded that the GMO wheat volunteers indeed were "representative of a wheat breeding program" and not a commercial variety.
Catch up on the Oregon GE Wheat story:
May 29, 2013: USDA Identifies GE Glyphosate-Resistant Volunteer Wheat
May 31, 2013: GE Wheat Investigation Will Take Time, USDA Says
June 5, 2013: GMO Wheat Discovery Yields Lawsuit
June 6, 2013: Monsanto Not Ruling Out 'Purposeful' Release of GE Wheat
June 17, 2013: USDA GE Wheat Investigation Continues
June 19, 2013: U.S. Representative Wants Answers on GE Wheat
June 24, 2013: Monsanto Says GM Wheat Release Remains 'Suspicious'
Sept. 26, 2014: USDA Investigating Unapproved GMO Wheat Found Growing In Montana