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Wheat market sinks on GMO news

Jeff Caldwell 05/30/2013 @ 3:18pm Multimedia Editor for Agriculture.com and Successful Farming magazine.

Though the product's testing period ended almost a decade ago, plant samples containing a strain of glyphosate-resistant wheat were confirmed Wednesday on a farm in Oregon.

The plants were discovered in a small stand of volunteer wheat on the farm, according to a report from U.S. Wheat Associates.

"Further testing by USDA laboratories indicates the presence of the same GE glyphosate-resistant wheat variety that Monsanto was authorized to field test in 16 states from 1998 to 2005," according to a report from the USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) on Wednesday. "APHIS launched a formal investigation after being notified by an Oregon State University scientist that initial tests of wheat samples from an Oregon farm indicated the possible presence of GE glyphosate-resistant wheat plants. There are no GE wheat varieties approved for sale or in commercial production in the U.S. or elsewhere at this time."

There's no risk to the food or feed supply from the genetically modified wheat, but retaining such seed carries stiff penalties for those responsible. The Plant Production Act (PPA), according to APHIS, carries a penalty of up to $1,000,000 and potential criminal prosecution for those responsible.

"We are taking this situation very seriously and have launched a formal investigation,” says Michael Firko, acting deputy administrator for APHIS’ Biotechnology Regulatory Services, in an APHIS report. “Our first priority is to as quickly as possible determine the circumstances and extent of the situation and how it happened. We are collaborating with state, industry, and trading partners on this situation and are committed to providing timely information about our findings. USDA will put all necessary resources towards this investigation."

Glyphosate-resistant, or Roundup Ready, wheat has not yet been approved for commercial production in the U.S. or abroad.

"Although a Roundup Ready trait for wheat was never commercialized, in 2004 the U.S. Food and Drug Administration concluded that the Roundup Ready trait in wheat did not pose a health risk in food or animal feed. We are confident that U.S. wheat, wheat flour, and wheat foods remain safe, wholesome, and nutritious for people around the world," according to a statement from U.S. Wheat Associates on Wednesday. "We know it is important to understand how this situation occurred, and we have confidence that APHIS will be able to determine that as soon as possible. Nothing is more important than the trust we’ve earned with our customers at home and around the world by providing a reliable supply of high-quality wheat. As industry leaders, we will cooperate with authorities in the U.S. and international markets to understand the facts surrounding this incident and help minimize its impact."

Thursday's grain trade saw wheat futures tip lower due in large part to the Oregon discovery Wednesday. July wheat closed 4 cents lower Thursday at $6.98 3/4 per bushel.

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