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What They’re Saying About Roundup Ready Wheat Surfacing in Oregon

Gil Gullickson Updated: 05/31/2013 @ 9:18am Crops Technology Editor for Successful Farming magazine/Agriculture.com

USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) announced this week test results of plant samples from an Oregon farm indicate the presence of genetically engineered (GE) glyphosate-resistant wheat plants. They are from Roundup Ready wheat that Monsanto was authorized to field test in 16 states from 1998 to 2005. Due to a chilly reception from several parties including wheat processors and environmental groups, Monsanto discontinued the Roundup Ready wheat project nine years ago.

Here’s what some of the interested parties are saying on Web sites and in press statements about the finding.

What USDA’s APHIS Says

APHIS officials say detection of this wheat variety poses no food safety concern. The genetically engineered wheat is as safe as any non-genetically engineered wheat currently on the market.

Still, APHIS is investigating how this wheat surfaced in the Oregon field.

“Our first priority is to as quickly as possible determine the circumstances and extent of the situation and how it happened,” says Michael Firko, Acting Deputy Administrator for APHIS’ Biotechnology Regulatory Services. “USDA will put all necessary resources towards this investigation. ” 

The Plant Protection Act (PPA) provides for substantial penalties for serious infractions. Should APHIS determine that this situation was the result of a violation of the PPA, APHIS has the authority to seek penalties for such a violation including civil penalties up to $1,000,000 and has the authority to refer the matter for criminal prosecution, if appropriate.

What Monsanto Says

Monsanto says it will work with USDA to find out why the Roundup Ready wheat surfaced. It says 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.

“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,” its statement read. “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 UDSA 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.

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