WASHINGTON — The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service confirmed June 7 the discovery of genetically engineered (GE) wheat plants growing in an unplanted agricultural field in Washington state.
The GE wheat in question is resistant to glyphosate, commonly referred to as Roundup.
Samples of the wheat plants from the field in Washington were sent to the USDA Federal Grain Inspection Service lab in Kansas City, Missouri, as well as USDA Agricultural Research lab in Pullman, Washington, for testing and confirmation.
According to a statement from the U.S. Wheat Associates (USW) and the National Association of Wheat Growers, the USDA has confirmed to them there is no evidence suggesting that this wheat event, or any other GM wheat event has entered U.S. commercial supplies or entered the food supply.
In a followup newsletter, the U.S. Wheat Associates voiced many farmers’ thoughts, saying, “We know there is frustration over why and how this has happened, and not for the first time. There is a sense of helplessness, not knowing how to resolve the situation.”
It’s not known how overseas buyers will react to this latest event. While APHIS confirmed the plants in this situation have a GE event for resistance to glyphosate, at the time of their announcement they had not yet identified the specific event.
Wheat trade organization officials say identification is important because “Korean and Japanese government agencies have been testing all imported U.S. wheat for two glyphosate resistant events since 2013. That testing had never identified those two traits in about 30 million metric tons of U.S. wheat.”
There are no genetically modified wheat varieties for sale or in commercial production in the United States at this time, as APHIS has not deregulated any GE wheat varieties.
After previous detections of GE wheat, USDA strengthened its oversight of regulated wheat field trials. APHIS now requires developers to apply for a permit for field trials involving GE wheat beginning with GE wheat planted on or after Jan. 1, 2016.
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