USDA is investigating the detection of genetically-engineered, glyphosate-resistant wheat plants on a farm in Oregon. There are no genetically-engineered wheat varieties approved for sale or in commercial production in the United States or elsewhere at this time.
According to USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, plant samples from the farm indicate the presence of the same genetically engineered glyphosate-resistant wheat variety that Monsanto was authorized to field test in 16 states from 1998 to 2005. Monsanto discontinued its commercial wheat development program nine years ago.
Monsanto released a statement saying, “Our process for closing out the Roundup Ready wheat program was rigorous, well-documented and audited. We understand that USDA’s findings are based solely on testing samples from a single 80-acre field, on one farm in Oregon, which overwintered from the previous growing season.”
APHIS launched a formal investigation after being notified by an Oregon State University scientist that initial tests of wheat samples from an Oregon farm indicated the possible presence of genetically-engineered glyphosate-resistant wheat plants.
“We are taking this situation very seriously and have launched a formal investigation,” said Michael Firko, acting deputy administrator for APHIS’ Biotechnology Regulatory Services. “Our first priority is to as quickly as possible determine the circumstances and extent of the situation and how it happened. We are collaborating with state, industry, and trading partners on this situation and are committed to providing timely information about our findings. USDA will put all necessary resources towards this investigation. ”
The National Association of Wheat Growers and U.S. Wheat Associates released a joint statement saying, “We know it is important to understand how this situation occurred, and we have confidence that APHIS will be able to determine that as soon as possible. Nothing is more important than the trust we’ve earned with our customers at home and around the world by providing a reliable supply of high-quality wheat. As industry leaders, we will cooperate with authorities in the United States and international markets to understand the facts surrounding this incident and help minimize its impact.
“Although a Roundup Ready trait for wheat was never commercialized, in 2004 the U.S. Food and Drug Administration concluded that the Roundup Ready trait in wheat did not pose a health risk in food or animal feed. We are confident that U.S. wheat, wheat flour and wheat foods remain safe, wholesome and nutritious for people around the world.”
The Plant Protection Act provides for substantial penalties for serious infractions. Should APHIS determine that this situation was the result of a violation of the PPA, APHIS has the authority to seek penalties for such a violation including civil penalties up to $1 million and has the authority to refer the matter for criminal prosecution, if appropriate.