While the reaction from trading partners was immediate with a significant impact on markets and Monsanto opponents did not miss an opportunity to crow, USDA says genetically modified wheat plants found in Oregon was an isolated event.
“As of today, USDA has neither found nor been informed of anything that would indicate that this incident amounts to more than a single isolated incident in a single field on a single farm,” the agency said in a statement issued Friday. “All information collected so far shows no indication of the presence of GE wheat in commerce. Investigators are conducting a thorough review.”
“On May 29, USDA announced that a small number of volunteer wheat plants in an Oregon field had tested positive for genetically engineered (GE) glyphosate-resistant wheat. Extensive testing confirmed the wheat as a variety – MON71800 – developed by Monsanto,” USDA said.
“The detection of this wheat variety does not pose a public health or food safety concern. Monsanto worked with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 2004 to complete a voluntary food and feed safety consultation,” It added. “ Completion of the FDA consultation process means this variety is as safe as non-GE wheat currently on the market.”
In the statement, USDA acknowledged its investigation began on May 3, many days before the incident was made public. That was the day when an Oregon State University scientist notified USDA officials that plant samples they had tested positive for a protein that made them resistant to glyphosate.
USDA’s investigators have interviewed the person that harvested the wheat from this field as well as the seed supplier who sold the producer wheat seed; obtained samples of the wheat seed sold to the producer and other growers; and obtained samples of the producer’s wheat harvests, including a sample of the producer’s 2012 harvest.
It says all of these samples of seed and grain tested negative for the presence of GE material. Investigators are continuing to conduct interviews with approximately 200 area growers.
USDA’s statement on the incident concluded with information on steps it has taken to reassure the wheat market.
“On June 13, 2013, USDA validated an event-specific PCR (DNA-based) method for detecting MON71800 (provided by Monsanto to USDA on May 23, 2013),” it said. “ The USDA validation process included a specificity study and a sensitivity study. USDA determined that the method can reliably detect MON71800 when it is present at a frequency of 1 in 200 kernels. Additionally, USDA has provided this validated DNA test method to detect this specific GE variety to our trading partners that have requested it.”
“Major markets, such as Japan, Korea and Taiwan, have postponed imports of U.S. white wheat as they continue to study information from U.S. officials to determine what, if any, future action may be required. USDA officials will continue to provide information as quickly as possible as the investigation continues – with a top priority on giving our trading partners the tools they need to ensure science-based trade decisions.”