SPOKANE — USDA's open communication has been critical for the wheat industry's ability to maintain customer confidence in the wake of GMO wheat detections, says a representative of U.S. Wheat Associates.

Dalton Henry, U.S. Wheat vice president of policy, spoke to the Capital Press Nov. 13 during the Tri-State Grain Growers Convention in Spokane. The organization is the overseas marketing arm for the industry.

Q. How is USDA's fact-gathering into GMO wheat detections from an industry perspective?

Henry: I think that from an industry perspective it has been good. We especially appreciate APHIS' work, and really all of USDA's work, in keeping an open line of communication during those fact-finding efforts. From U.S. Wheat's perspective, that's been especially key in dispelling rumors or myths as news about this travels to overseas markets. To have APHIS and Foreign Agricultural Service able to especially engage in government-to-government contact with regulators in countries that may be particularly sensitive, that's been a key part of making sure they know this hasn't been and isn't in commercial supplies.

Q. What are you hearing from customers overseas?

Henry: (For the 2019 incident,) after the initial finding and subsequent fact-finding pieces for this last one, after getting testing particularly for three countries — Japan, Korea and Taiwan — once they had their testing regimes in place, and those varied from one country to another, really, we returned to business as usual relatively quickly.

Within those countries, there have been a few follow-up questions. But since this summer, it's not something that we've heard a lot from those customers about.

Q. What are the next steps from a U.S. Wheat perspective?

Henry: A lot of the next steps that have been discussed here and through the conference today have been much more on the production and agronomic front, working with growers, making sure growers are remaining diligent in monitoring.

For us at U.S. Wheat, (we) support those efforts where we can, but don't necessarily have a particularly active role to play on the production and agronomic side.

For us, next steps (are) communicating with customers, making sure they know we're committed going forward to provide information that they may need and answering any questions that they may have.

Q. Anything we should be sure to include?

Henry: Efforts like WSU's and Washington State Department of Agriculture's seed screening trials, being able to actively prove we don't have this in commercial seed supply anywhere, I think that goes a particularly long way towards ensuring we maintain confidence. 

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Field Reporter, Spokane

I have been covering wheat and other topics for Capital Press since 2008. Recent stories include radicchio, emus, aphids and a Q&A with Washington Gov. Jay Inslee. If you have a news tip, please contact me at 509-688-9923 or mweaver@capitalpress.com

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