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USDA GE Wheat Investigation Continues

USDA keeps investigation open on genetically engineered wheat in Oregon

Published on: Jun 17, 2013

Following the discovery of unauthorized genetically engineered wheat plants in a field in Oregon late last month, USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service says the investigation is ongoing to determine the wheat's origin.

Previously, APHIS reported that the wheat contained Monsanto's patented Roundup Ready trait, making the plants resistant to glyphosate. Because Monsanto has been unable to obtain samples from the Oregon plants, the company has declined to confirm the presence of the gene.

Monsanto representatives last week said the company has provided its own testing methods for the Roundup Ready gene in wheat – also known as the CP4 event – to several countries and the USDA. APHIS confirmed the company has provided tests to importing countries, though it did not confirm if the countries or APHIS itself is using the tests.

USDA keeps investigation open on genetically engineered wheat in Oregon
USDA keeps investigation open on genetically engineered wheat in Oregon

So far, APHIS has determined that no GE wheat is in commerce. The investigation is now focusing on the 123-acre field where the GE wheat volunteers were detected.

Monsanto continues its own testing on commonly-used wheat seed varieties in the Northwest, as well as the two varieties reportedly planted by the farmer who managed the area where the GM wheat was found.

In a press call June 5, Monsanto officials noted the company had completed testing on 60% of the seedstock varieties, finding no GE contamination.  An announcement last week indicated that more testing of six additional varieties also revealed no GE contamination.

"Monsanto has now tested the seed for 56 varieties which represent more than 80% of all the acres of soft white winter/spring wheat seed varieties grown in (Washington and Oregon) region for 2011. These tests show that all samples of these 56 varieties are clean," a company statement said.

Despite reassurance from USDA that no GE wheat has entered the market, and that the product does not pose a food safety risk, a handful of lawsuits have surfaced over recent weeks against Monsanto for negligence.

In one case, a Kansas wheat farmer filed a civil lawsuit against Monsanto, arguing that the discovery caused wheat export futures to sink. The farmer is seeking compensation for the damages suffered.

Another case, offered by an Idaho farm, says Monsanto's development of Roundup Ready wheat resulted in increased prices because the GE wheat is likely to surface in non-GE wheat supplies, AP reports.