USDA Office of Communications Director Matt Paul has offered an update on the detection of genetically engineered wheat in Oregon.
On May 29, USDA announced that a small number of volunteer wheat plants in an Oregon field had tested positive for genetically engineered (GE) glyphosate-resistant wheat. Extensive testing confirmed the wheat as a variety developed by Monsanto: MON71800
The detection of this wheat variety does not pose a public health or food safety concern, according to the agency. “Monsanto worked with FDA in 2004 to complete a voluntary food and feed safety consultation. Completion of the FDA consultation process means this variety is as safe as non-GE wheat currently on the market,” said Mr. Paul.
“USDA began an investigation into this matter on May 3 when an Oregon State University scientist notified USDA officials that plant samples they had tested positive for a protein that made them resistant to glyphosate.
“As of today, USDA has neither found nor been informed of anything that would indicate that this incident amounts to more than a single isolated incident in a single field on a single farm,” he continued. “All information collected so far shows no indication of the presence of GE wheat in commerce. Investigators are conducting a thorough review. They have interviewed the person that harvested the wheat from this field as well as the seed supplier who sold the producer wheat seed; obtained samples of the wheat seed sold to the producer and other growers; and obtained samples of the producer's wheat harvests, including a sample of the producer's 2012 harvest. All of these samples of seed and grain tested negative for the presence of GE material. Investigators are continuing to conduct interviews with approximately 200 area growers.”
On June 13, 2013, USDA validated an event-specific PCR (DNA-based) method for detecting MON71800 (provided by Monsanto to USDA on May 23, 2013). The USDA validation process included a specificity study and a sensitivity study. USDA determined that the method can reliably detect MON71800 when it is present at a frequency of 1 in 200 kernels. Additionally, USDA has provided this validated DNA test method to detect this specific GE variety to trading partners that have requested it.
Major markets, such as Japan, Korea and Taiwan, have postponed imports of U.S. white wheat as they continue to study information from U.S. officials to determine what, if any, future action may be required. USDA officials will continue to provide information as quickly as possible as the investigation continues - with a top priority on giving trading partners the tools they need to ensure science-based trade decisions.