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IN FOCUS: Reaction to USDA's genetically-engineered wheat news

U.S. Wheat Associates vice president of communications Steve Mercer discusses the ramifications of USDA's May 29 announcement.

Responding to media reports that Japan had suspended imports of U.S. wheat, U.S. Wheat Associates said the industry had not received official word Thursday of any disruption in trade following USDA's announcement of an investigation into genetically-enhanced wheat discovered in a single Oregon field. An official from Japan’s Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry (MAFF) told multiple U.S. news agencies that the country would temporarily halt imports of U.S. white and feed wheat until more was known about the situation.

Steve Mercer, vice president of communications with U.S. Wheat Associates, told Feedstuffs that Japan did cancel an order for white wheat in its regular tender, but did proceed with its purchase of other U.S. wheat varieties. According to data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Economic Research Service, Japan is the top export destination for U.S. wheat, purchasing nearly 1.7 million metric tons from October 2012 through March 2013.

Mercer stressed that the alleged discovery of genetically-enhanced wheat, while concerning, was not a food safety issue, and should not disrupt export of U.S. wheat. During its announcement Wednesday, the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service said there was no evidence that any unapproved wheat varieties made it into commerce; the wheat samples involved in the investigation were obtained from “volunteer” wheat that had overwintered in a single field.

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