WASHINGTON, July 29, 2016 – An unapproved strain of genetically modified wheat has been found growing in a U.S. field, but it has not been detected anywhere in the nation’s wheat supply.
In a statement released Friday, USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) confirmed that 22 plants were discovered by a farmer “in an unplanted agricultural field in Washington State.” The field had not been planted since the spring of 2015. The detected strain is resistant to glyphosate, the Monsanto weed killer sold as Roundup. No biotech strains of wheat are approved for sale or cultivation in the United States.
A similar strain of GMO wheat was detected in 2013 in a field in Oregon. That strain (MON71800) is a “sister event” to the MON71700 strain that was discovered in Washington.
According to a Monsanto release, the two strains have the same inserted DNA, “just in a different genomic location.” The farmer’s full wheat harvest is being tested for the presence of any genetically enhanced material, and APHIS says it has taken “prompt and thorough action” in response to the discovery and has “no evidence of GE wheat in commerce.”
In 2013, the discovery of the unapproved strain in Oregon led trading partners including South Korea and Japan to cut off imports of U.S. wheat for concerns of bringing in the biotech grain. Monsanto has developed a test that would identify MON 71700 in commercial grain shipments, and USDA says the test has been validated and trading partners could use it to screen their imports should they so choose.
However, both USDA and Monsanto say that there is no evidence of unapproved GMO wheat in the supply chain. Even if that were the case with this MON 71700, a Monsanto spokesperson said that the strain poses no food safety risk.
“Due to the small number of affected plants, and based on the available information about MON 71700 (and an associated protein), FDA concluded it is unlikely that the wheat would present any safety concerns if present in the food supply as a result of this incident,” the spokesperson said in an email to Agri-Pulse.
According to Monsanto, MON 71700 was evaluated in field trials in the Pacific Northwest from 1998 to 2001 but was never commercialized.
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