The USDA is continuing its investigation of GE wheat found this week on an Oregon farm with a team of nine researchers, says Michael Firko, acting deputy administrator for APHIS' Biotechnology and Regulatory Services.
The agency made the initial announcement regarding the find Wednesday, also noting that it contained Monsanto's patented glyphosate-resistant Roundup Ready trait. No GE wheat is commercially available in the U.S. or in any country at this time.
Monsanto was approved to study the trait in wheat starting in 1998, though it abandoned the project in 2004. In all, APHIS authorized more than 100 field tests in 16 states, including Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Kansas, Minnesota, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oregon, South Dakota, Washington and Wyoming.
USDA says process to determine source of GE wheat has revealed few answers so far
Oregon field trials were last conducted in 2001, USDA said. Testing of the wheat plants in question first began when an Oregon farmer sent samples of a wheat plant he believed to be glyphosate-resistant to an Oregon State University scientist on April 30. Based on the scientist's results, she referred the samples to APHIS on May 3, kicking the investigation into high gear.
Firko noted that the investigation was not made public until Wednesday due to the agency's extensive testing and re-testing.
"There are no tests that ask the wheat plant, 'what's in there?' You have to design a very specific test with very specific chemical reagents," Firko explained. Part of designing and completing those tests include ruling out or implicating a number of possibilities in addition to getting affirmative results that certain genes are in the plant.