Monsanto Wednesday said it is considering multiple environmental, agronomic and managerial factors that may have contributed to the appearance of volunteer wheat plants in Oregon allegedly containing the company's Roundup Ready glyphosate-resistant trait.
Though not ready to rule any possibilities out, the company said it's also not ready to agree that the that the spring wheat found does in fact include the exact trait that was studied in field trials more than 10 years ago – but fully discontinued in 2004.
Due to regulatory process, neither USDA nor Oregon State University has provided samples directly from the affected field to Monsanto, effectively requiring the company to operate on the information USDA has released.
"The testing is complex, and sophisticated methods are required to precisely identify the CP4 (Roundup Ready wheat) event," said Robb Fraley, Monsanto Chief Technology Officer, during a media call Wednesday. Fraley explained that the finding "seems like to be a random, isolated occurrence more consistent with the accidental or purposeful mixing of a small amount of seed during the planting, harvesting or during the fallow cycle in an individual field."
The company has been able to determine through their testing methods that 60% of spring wheat varieties used in Oregon and Washington fields from 2011 -- the year the field in question was last planted – are free of GE contamination.
Monsanto representatives said if the company were able to obtain samples of the affected wheat, it could further use its own testing methods to determine the exact wheat variety in question and therefore narrow origination possibilities.
For now, the company has been using USDA information and other testing measures in attempt to determine how the alleged GE wheat appeared. It says the absence of similar reports of glyphosate resistant wheat from other farmers, and the affected farmer's other fields, indicates that the issue is likely point-sourced, and not systemic.