After a thorough examination regarding the detection of genetically engineered (GE) wheat in Washington state, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal & Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) announced Dec. 1 that it has closed its fact-finding investigation. The agency found no evidence of GE wheat in commerce.
On July 29, 2016, USDA confirmed a farmer's discovery of GE wheat plants growing in an unplanted agricultural field in Washington. After thoroughly examining the farmer’s property, APHIS detected a total of 22 volunteer wheat plants in an unplanted field. The GE wheat in question is resistant to the herbicide glyphosate, commonly referred to as Roundup.
Working with the farmer, APHIS took measures to ensure that no GE wheat moved into commerce. Although the volunteer plants were not in a planted field, out of an abundance of caution, APHIS tested the farmer’s full wheat harvest for the presence of any GE wheat material. All samples were found to be negative for any GE wheat material.
The GE wheat was developed by Monsanto Co. and is referred to as MON 71700, containing the CP4-EPSPS protein. The U.S. Food & Drug Administration previously evaluated crops containing the CP4-EPSPS protein for safety through its voluntary biotechnology consultation process. Due to the small number of affected plants, and based on the available information about MON 71700 and CP4-EPSPS, FDA concluded that it is unlikely that the wheat would present any safety concerns if present in the food supply as a result of this incident.
There are no GE wheat varieties for sale or in commercial production in the U.S. at this time, as APHIS has not deregulated any GE wheat varieties.
The National Association of Wheat Growers and the U.S. Wheat Associates expressed their appreciation to APHIS for its work in this isolated incident.
“Effective communications between government officials, including APHIS and USDA’s Foreign Agricultural Service, farmer organizations, the grain trade and customers kept the process moving in a positive way,” the groups said. “We also thank our overseas customers for their rational response to this situation and their continued confidence in the quality and value of U.S. wheat.”