Monday 3rd June update: Monsanto has told EU authorities how to detect the unapproved strain of genetically modified wheat found growing on a farm in Oregon, but it will be at least two weeks before imports to the EU can be tested, an official said.
USDA INVESTIGATING DETECTION OF GENETICALLY ENGINEERED (GE) GLYPHOSATE-RESISTANT WHEAT IN OREGON
The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) announced Wednesday that test results of plant samples from an Oregon farm indicate the presence of genetically engineered (GE) glyphosate-resistant wheat plants. Further testing by USDA laboratories indicates the presence of the same GE glyphosate-resistant wheat variety that Monsanto was authorized to field test in 16 states from 1998 to 2005. 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 GE glyphosate-resistant wheat plants. There are no GE wheat varieties approved for sale or in commercial production in the United States or elsewhere at this time.
As a result of the USDA announcement Japanese authorities have canceled a tender offer to buy wheat from the US and other governments worldwide have threatened to stop all US wheat imports.
The EU Commission has asked the United States how to test for unapproved GM Wheat, a spokesman said, adding that incoming shipments would be tested and blocked if they contained the strain.
Friday Update: South Korean millers have suspended imports of U.S. wheat and some other Asian countries have stepped up inspections.
Meanwhile, Monsanto were amazingly quick to try and throw water on the fire - especially for them as they usually take a while to send out press releases on important stories – Maybe they really are panicking?
The detection of this wheat variety does not pose a food safety concern. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) completed a voluntary consultation on the safety of food and feed derived from this GE glyphosate-resistant wheat variety in 2004. For the consultation, the developer provided information to FDA to support the safety of this wheat variety. FDA completed the voluntary consultation with no further questions concerning the safety of grain and forage derived from this wheat, meaning that this variety is as safe as non-GE wheat currently on the market.“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. This situation is unacceptable and USDA will put all necessary resources towards this investigation.”
The Plant Protection Act (PPA) 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 $1,000,000 and has the authority to refer the matter for criminal prosecution, if appropriate.
APHIS, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ FDA work together to regulate the safe use of organisms derived from modern biotechnology. APHIS regulates the introduction (meaning the importation, interstate movement, and environmental release/field testing) of certain GE organisms that may pose a risk to plant health. EPA regulates pesticides, including plants with plant-incorporated protectants (pesticides intended to be produced and used in a living plant), to ensure public safety. EPA also sets limits on pesticide residues on food and animal feed. FDA has primary responsibility for ensuring the safety of human food and animal feed, as well as safety of all plant-derived foods and feeds.