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Monsanto Statement on USDA GM Wheat Report

Monsanto noted it remains committed to working with the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the U.S. wheat industry to get to the bottom of the reported detection of Roundup Ready wheat earlier this week in a single field in Oregon.

The company is in the process of conducting its own investigation into the matter and is prepared to take actions once the investigation results are known to ensure that its farmer customers and the broader wheat industry remains strong.

“We’re committed to being transparent about our investigation and sharing information as it is assembled,” said Claire Cajacob, Monsanto’s wheat research lead. “We’re prepared to provide any technical help that we can to get to the bottom of this.”

Monsanto said that the USDA’s report that its near decade-old Roundup Ready wheat trait had been found in a single field raised important questions about the circumstance and source of the presence. Monsanto’s process for closing out the Roundup Ready wheat program was rigorous, well-documented and audited. The company’s own internal investigation has confirmed that it did not have any prior test site at the location where the material under investigation was reported to have been present.

Based on current reports, USDA has highlighted that it has no evidence that the original Roundup Ready wheat trait has entered commerce. The company’s internal assessments also suggest that there is considerable reason to believe that the presence of the Roundup Ready trait in wheat, if determined to be valid, is very limited.

The company’s internal assessments suggest that neither seed left in the soil or wheat pollen flow serve as a reasonable explanation behind this reported detection at this time. Researchers, both in the public and private sectors, acknowledge that the viability of wheat seed -- which on average lasts 1 to 2 years in the soil. Wheat is predominantly a self-pollinating plant and research highlights that 99 percent of wheat pollen moves less than 30 feet from its source.   

Monsanto noted that there are no food, feed or environmental safety concerns associated with the presence of the Roundup Ready gene if it is found to be present in wheat. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) confirmed the food and feed safety of Roundup Ready wheat more than a decade ago. FDA’s summary and letter can be found online. 

Previous: (5/29/2013) Monsanto Statement on USDA GM Wheat Report

While Monsanto will work with the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to get to the bottom of the reported genetically modified wheat detection, there are no food, feed or environmental safety concerns associated with the presence of the Roundup Ready gene if it is found to be present in wheat. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) confirmed the food and feed safety of Roundup Ready wheat more than a decade ago. The Roundup Ready gene, which is widely used in multiple crops and by millions of farmers globally, has been also reviewed and approved by regulatory authorities in every country around the world to which crops containing that gene have been submitted for cultivation or import approval, including Japan, Korea and the EU.

Over the past decade, an annual average of 58 million acres of wheat have been planted in the United States. This is the first report of the Roundup Ready trait being found out of place since Monsanto’s commercial wheat development program was discontinued nine years ago. Our process for closing out the Roundup Ready wheat program was rigorous, well-documented and audited. We understand that USDA’s findings are based solely on testing samples from a single 80-acre field, on one farm in Oregon, which overwintered from the previous growing season. As is the normal practice in this part of the country, wheat fields are left fallow following the previous harvest and sprayed with glyphosate to control weeds and to preserve soil moisture. The company noted that this report is unusual since the program was discontinued nine years ago, and this is the only report after more than 500 million acres of wheat have been grown. Accordingly, while USDA’s results are unexpected, there is considerable reason to believe that the presence of the Roundup Ready trait in wheat, if determined to be valid, is very limited.

We will work with USDA to confirm their test results and as they consider appropriate next steps. We will also conduct a rigorous investigation to validate the scope of and to address any presence of a Monsanto Roundup Ready event in commercial wheat seed.

Earlier this month, USDA contacted us and requested information pertaining to an investigation into whether hard-to-control wheat from this field may contain a glyphosate-tolerance gene. We have provided materials, methods and offered technical assistance.   The necessary testing requires sophisticated methods, considerable expertise and meticulous laboratory techniques to generate reliable results. Commercial test strips, which are used to detect the presence of glyphosate tolerance in soybeans, canola, cotton and sugar beets, generate a very high incidence of false positive detections (greater than 90 percent) and are not reliable for wheat. We have asked for information necessary to confirm the presence of the Roundup Ready trait in the samples that were tested.  Up to this point, Monsanto has not received details about the testing USDA has performed, nor has USDA provided us with samples necessary to verify their findings

Importantly, as all parties work to verify these findings, the glyphosate-tolerance gene used in Roundup Ready wheat has a long history of safe use. The gene that was used in Roundup Ready wheat also produces the same protein that has been and is used widely in corn, soy and several other crops by millions of farmers throughout the world.