Update on discovery of genetic engineered variety
By Glen Squires, CEO Washington Grain Commission
Although the media has been mostly balanced and accurate in its coverage of the finding of genetically engineered (GE) volunteer wheat plants in an Oregon field, certain inaccuracies have spread about the incident. Specifically Japan and Korea have not banned all wheat imports.
Japan has temporarily suspended tenders of soft white wheat, but is still taking hard red winter and hard red spring wheat. Korea, meanwhile, has temporarily suspended shipments of soft white even though their testing of flour from prior shipments shows no GE trait. Taiwan has not taken any steps to restrict U.S. wheat imports at this time.
The Federal Grain Inspection Service continues to provide letters to exporters stating that "No GM wheat is for sale or in commercial production in the U.S."
The domestic milling and baking industry, meanwhile, appears largely unaffected by the discovery of the GE wheat. We do know before closing its Roundup Ready wheat program in 2004, Monsanto had the technology reviewed by the Food and Drug Administration. The FDA found the herbicide tolerant wheat the same in every respect to non-GE wheat and therefore safe.
The WGC wrote the director of the Animal Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) and the office of the Secretary of Agriculture on June 2 with a list of 10 questions requesting information on a number of outstanding issues, including a request to confirm whether the GE material in question was red or white wheat, spring or winter. To date, there has been no response. Everything we now know about the finding of the genetically engineered wheat is that it appears to be an isolated incident.
In a separate, but parallel inquiry, Monsanto has been conducting its own analysis of Pacific Northwest wheat samples. Their conclusions thus far can be found here.
Washington State University, meanwhile, has launched its own screening program of varieties and lines to ensure the absence of GE wheat in its material. This screening will include varieties held by the Washington State Crop Improvement Association (WSCIA). (See WSU release)
The WGC has been working with the Washington Association of Wheat Growers, U.S. Wheat Associates, the National Association of Wheat Growers, WSCIA, WSU and other wheat growing states to facilitate the flow of information that will enable a quick resolution to our customers' concerns. At this writing, we remain hopeful the challenge facing our industry will be resolved in a timely manner before harvest starts.
Thank you for your patience as we continue to pursue a successful resolution to this unfortunate situation.