Wheat

Federal investigators have identified the type of trait in the volunteer wheat found recently.

USDA has confirmed the presence of Monsanto’s MON 71800 variety in the genetically modified volunteer wheat plants recently discovered in Eastern Washington.

MON 71800 is known by the trade name Roundup Ready wheat. It was previously found in an Oregon wheat field in 2013.

According to the USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, the Food and Drug Administration in 2004 completed a voluntary consultation for wheat with MON 71800. It concluded the GMO wheat is as safe as food and feed as non-GMO wheat currently on the market.

Genetically modified wheat is variously referred to as GM, GMO, genetically engineered, GE or biotech.

“Our fact-finding into this situation is in the early stages and is consistent with how we handled similar incidents in the past,” said USDA spokesman Richard Coker. “It took USDA six to nine months to complete previous reviews, and we anticipate a similar timeline with this finding.”

USDA continues to work with the state and the wheat industry to gather information about the finding, and continues to test fields on adjacent farms.

“We have not identified any GE wheat volunteers at other locations,” Coker said. “We continue to keep trading partners informed.”

“It takes a little while to wrap everything up, but it sounds like they’re keeping customers informed,” said Glen Squires, CEO of the Washington Grain Commission. “I think we’re just waiting to see what they conclude.”

The Idaho Wheat Commission said in its state wheat report that U.S. embassies in Japan and South Korea, key customers for wheat grown in the Pacific Northwest, delivered a letter from APHIS to their appropriate counterparts in those governments.

Both Japanese and South Korean customers have been testing for this event — the term used to describe a particular trait — in every load of U.S. wheat shipped to them since 2013, and file samples back to 2012, and no positive find has ever been made, according to the report.

“We understand that both countries have accepted this letter as adequate assurance of identity and control and all tenders, vessel discharging, distribution and processing of U.S. wheat has been returned to normal,” the report stated.

“There was a tremendous rush and effort to be able to construct and deliver this conclusion in less than one week from the time APHIS made the discovery public, and we have a lot of thanks to offer to those who expended the time and energy to see that through so quickly,” the Idaho Wheat Report added. “But this should bring this current chapter to an end.”

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