Monsanto to Pay $2.4M Over GMO Wheat Complaints

Monsanto Co. (NYSE:MON) has agreed to pay $2.4 million to resolve a series of complaints over genetically modified soft white wheat, the company said Wednesday.

Additional claims on other varieties of wheat are pending.

Under the agreement, the St. Louis-based seed and pesticide maker, without admitting liability, is to put $2.1 million into a settlement fund to compensate farmers in Washington, Oregon and Idaho who sold soft white wheat between May 30 and Nov. 13, 2013, and an additional $250,000 to wheat growers' associations, including the National Wheat Foundation, the Washington Association of Wheat Growers, the Oregon Wheat Growers' League, and the Idaho Grain Producers' Association.

"Rather than paying the costs of protracted litigation, this agreement puts that money to work in research and development efforts for the wheat industry," Monsanto chief litigation counsel Kyle McClain said in a release.

Claims will be processed by Heffler Claims Group.

"The settlement fairly and equitably resolves our clients' claims and benefits the soft white wheat industry as well," Erin Green Comite, one of the farmers' lawyers, said in the release.

The U.S is the world's top wheat exporter, while Monsanto is the world's largest seed company.

Following the discovery of the herbicide-resistant wheat strain, which the U.S. Department of Agriculture traced to Monsanto, wheat prices tumbled and big buyers of U.S. wheat, including South Korea, Japan and the European Union, suspended imports from the U.S.

In September, the USDA found a second case of genetically modified wheat in Montana, also traced to Monsanto.

Genetically modified wheat isn't approved for commercial use, although genetic engineers have worked off and on for years to develop varieties that can withstand pesticides. GMO corn and soybeans are widely grown in the U.S.