USDA Continues GM Wheat Investigation as Japan Lifts Import Ban

USDA investigators detect no new samples of GM wheat; Japan resumes tenders for U.S. wheat

Published on: Jul 31, 2013

The USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service Monday confirmed that no new samples of genetically modified wheat have been detected in commerce, in seed and grain samples or in tested fields -- just in time for Japan to lift import bans spurred by the wheat's initial discovery in May.

An Oregon farmer initially found the glyphosate-resistant plants in his 123-acre field. Later testing positively identified the GM trait in the wheat to be Monsanto's MON71800 Roundup Ready trait, first field-tested, though not commercially approved, more than a decade ago.

Through interviews with nearly 270 farmers and testing of seed and grain samples, APHIS has determined that the presence of the GM wheat is isolated to one field on one farm in Oregon.

USDA investigators detect no new samples of GM wheat; Japan resumes tenders for U.S. wheat
USDA investigators detect no new samples of GM wheat; Japan resumes tenders for U.S. wheat

The APHIS investigation is ongoing, with a review of field trial authorizations involving the MON71800 trait – also called the "CP4 event." APHIS said it will continue to review additional records to determine the origin of the plants.

From 1994 to 2005, APHIS issued 158 field trial authorizations for the trait in 16 states.

Despite APHIS' reassurance that all seed used in testing had been properly disposed of, Monsanto said last month that the release was "suspicious," noting that seed cannot remain viable for the number of years since the field trials were last conducted in Oregon. Monsanto's Chief Technology Officer Robb Fraley said the company has also sifted through and tested several seed varieties used to plant most wheat fields in the Northwest, finding no evidence of GM contamination.

Though the CP4 event has been approved in other crops by the Food and Drug Administration and approved for human safety, the discovery caused a stir in importing markets. Specifically, Japan, the European Union and South Korea balked at U.S. wheat imports due to trade restrictions on GMOs.

Fears of trade disruptions also fueled lawsuits against Monsanto for negligence, loss of profit, and/or increased grain prices.

However, Japan on Tuesday lifted its ban on imports, resuming tenders for new purchases of U.S. Western White and soft white wheat. To reopen the markets, the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries completed its own review of APHIS' testing, also finding no evidence of GM material in any commercial supplies.

Catch up on the GE Wheat story:
June 24, 2013: Monsanto Says GM Wheat Release Remains 'Suspicious'
June 19, 2013: U.S. Representative Wants Answers on GE Wheat
June 17, 2013: USDA GE Wheat Investigation Continues
June 6, 2013: Monsanto Not Ruling Out 'Purposeful' Release of GE Wheat
June 5, 2013: GMO Wheat Discovery Yields Lawsuit
May 31, 2013: GE Wheat Investigation Will Take Time, USDA Says
May 29, 2013: USDA Identifies GE Glyphosate-Resistant Volunteer Wheat