Friday, June 14, 2013

USDA: Oregon GE Wheat Is 'Isolated Incident'

Agency issues update on investigation...
The Department of Agriculture on Friday issued a statement on the progress of its ongoing investigation into unapproved genetically engineered wheat from Monsanto found growing in Oregon.  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," the agency said. 

The wheat poses no threat to human health, USDA said, noting that it is "as safe as non-GE wheat currently on the market."
  
On a related note, a White House spokesman said the two kinds of "experimental" wheat currently growing in First Lady Michelle Obama's Kitchen Garden are not genetically engineered.
 
The full USDA statement:


Detection of Genetically Engineered Wheat in Oregon

*Status as of 14 June 2013

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 – MON71800 – developed by Monsanto.

The detection of this wheat variety does not pose a public health or food safety concern. Monsanto worked with the Food and Drug Administration (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.

USDA began an investigation into this matter on May 3 when an Oregon State University scientist notified USDA’s 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. 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 our 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 our trading partners the tools they need to ensure science-based trade decisions.


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