A strain of genetically engineered (GE) wheat that was never approved for U.S. sale or consumption was found sprouting on a farm in Oregon, the U.S. Agriculture Department said on Wednesday.
The wheat was developed years ago by biotechnology company Monsanto but never put into use in the face of worldwide opposition to genetically engineered wheat.
“We are taking this situation very seriously and have launched a formal investigation,” Michael Firko, acting deputy administrator for biotechnology regulatory services with USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS), said in a release Wednesday.
“Our first priority is to as quickly as possible determine the circumstances and extent of the situation and how it happened,” he said, noting the agency is “collaborating with state, industry, and trading partners on this situation.”
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, the agency said.
APHIS said Wednesday it had launched its 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.
The detection of the wheat variety “does not pose a food safety concern,” APHIS said, noting the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, during voluntary consultations in 2004, found the variety “as safe as non-GE wheat currently on the market.”
— Reporting for Reuters by Charles Abbott in Washington, D.C. Includes files from AGCanada.com Network staff.