Details on Monsanto’s rogue wheat 9/29/2014

Monsanto’s Rogue Wheat Found in Montana as Oregon Probe Ends (1)

 

By Alan Bjerga and Jack Kaskey

     Sept. 26 (Bloomberg) — Experimental wheat engineered by

Monsanto Co. was found on a Montana research field years after

testing concluded, reopening compliance issues for the world’s

largest seed company.

     The genetically modified wheat discovered in July at a

Montana State University test plot near Huntley was engineered

to tolerate Monsanto’s Roundup herbicide, Bernadette Juarez,

investigations director for the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s

Animal & Plant Health Inspection Service, said on a conference

call with reporters today.

     The discovery comes as investigators closed a probe into a

similar incident last year in Oregon that led some countries to

postpone U.S. wheat imports. The latest case shouldn’t affect

trade since the rogue wheat was found on a non-commercial farm

and the USDA found none in commerce.

     “We’ve now opened an investigation into this regulatory

compliance issue,” Juarez said on the call with reporters. “We

remain confident that the wheat exports will continue without

disruption.”

     The department said it was unable to find the source of the

Oregon wheat, which showed up eight years after St. Louis-based

Monsanto temporarily ended field tests of biotech varieties. The

agency plans to publish the 13,000-page investigation document

on the web today.

     “While we believe our compliance program is best in class,

we continuously review our processes and procedures to improve

them, including site selection, field trial isolation, and

verification and auditing of field trial locations,” Philip

Miller, Monsanto’s head of regulatory affairs, said in an e-

mailed statement today.

 

                        Imports Postponed

 

     The Oregon wheat, found last year growing on about 1

percent of a farmer’s 125-acre (51-hectare) field that was never

a testing site, led Japan, Korea and Taiwan to postpone U.S.

white wheat imports. Sales were reopened after additional

investigations showed no contamination of U.S. supplies.

     “My program undertook one of the most thorough and

scientifically detailed investigations in the history of our

organization,” Juarez said. “Ultimately we were not able to

make a conclusion as to how it happened.”

     Monsanto faced several lawsuits over the market impact of

potential contamination. The Montana incident, which occurred in

an area of one to three acres, should not disrupt trade, Juarez

said. The Food and Drug Administration in 2004 determined that

Monsanto’s wheat, known as Roundup Ready because it can tolerate

Roundup herbicide, is safe for food and animal feed.

     “There are no safety issues with this wheat,” Juarez

said.

 

                        Engineered Wheat

 

     Monsanto resumed trials of engineered wheat in 2011. The

USDA said it’s beefing up inspections of field trials of biotech

wheat, which are taking place this year in nine states and

Puerto Rico, and will monitor fields in nine states where the

plant was grown in 2012 and 2013. The Montana site was included

in wheat trials from 2000 to 2003, Juarez said.

     The Montana variety was genetically different from the

Oregon type, making a connection between the two unlikely. In

Oregon, the agency said that after more than 291 interviews with

farmers, grain handlers and researchers, it was not able to

conclude how the wheat got in the field.

     The incident highlighted tensions over genetically modified

crops between agribusinesses that support biotechnology and

advocates who question the products’ safety, with Oregon as a

key battleground.

     A ballot initiative in November that would require labeling

of genetically modified foods in the state is winning 77 percent

support in early polls. In May, two rural counties in southern

Oregon passed ballot measures banning most genetically modified

crops.

 

 

 

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