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Genetically modified wheat investigation



Since May 3, 2013, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) has been conducting a thorough investigation into the detection of genetically engineered (GE) glyphosate-resistant wheat plants in one field of one farm in Oregon.  Extensive testing following the detection of these plants confirmed the wheat as a variety – MON71800 – developed by Monsanto. The ongoing investigation is working to uncover how MON71800 GE wheat came to be in the field and to determine the extent of its presence.

All of the evidence collected thus far – specifically, the absence of MON71800 in seed and grain samples tested by USDA laboratories, and reports from nearly 270 farmers interviewed by USDA investigators that they have not observed glyphosate-resistant wheat plants in their fields – indicates that the extent of the presence of this GE wheat remains the single detection of the GE wheat plants in one field of one farm in Oregon.

From 1994 through 2005, APHIS issued 158 authorizations for field testing MON71800 in 16 States under its notification system.  All field trial applications and reports are submitted directly to, and authorized and managed by, APHIS headquarters personnel.  Each application and its design protocol are reviewed for sufficiency prior to authorization of a field test. Each application and its design protocol include specific information describing how the field test will be conducted.

Regarding termination of the field test, each application and its design protocol describe the final disposition of any seed, living parts of the plants harvested or otherwise removed, measures used to destroy or devitalize any material remaining in the plot or field, post-harvest restrictions on use of the land, and monitoring of the test site following termination to ensure that no viable GE plants or seed persist in the field.

For various reasons, not all authorized field tests are actually conducted.  A change in research plans or adverse weather conditions may cause an applicant to cancel an authorized field test.  For some of these authorized field tests, APHIS was notified that the GE plants were never planted and the authorized field test was not conducted. 

Since the detection in May 2013 of GE wheat, APHIS has conducted an initial re-review of authorizations involving MON71800 field trials and related field test reports.  As part of its investigation, APHIS is continuing to review this information and other potential sources of information, with the goal of learning how MON71800 came to be detected in one field of one farm in Oregon.  As necessary, we will take appropriate remedy measures and enforcement action.  We are moving forward with the investigation as expeditiously as possible.

To date, USDA-APHIS has no evidence that MON71800 GE wheat is in commerce, or in any of the other 15 States where MON71800 field tests were conducted.

Link to USDA website and resources

To submit comments to ODA on this issue, click here​.

Statement of ODA Director Katy Coba  5/29/13

The confirmation of wheat in Oregon that carries the trait of genetically modified resistance to glyphosate has triggered an appropriately thorough investigation by USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service. This is a very serious development that could have major trade ramifications for Pacific Northwest soft white wheat. I am concerned that a highly regulated plant material such as GM wheat somehow was able to escape into a crop field. There are many questions at this time, and I am hopeful that the investigation will find the answers quickly. In the meantime, the Oregon Department of Agriculture will do all it can to work with our important wheat industry to keep export markets open. For Oregon consumers, it is important to stress that GM wheat is not a food safety issue, according to an assessment done by FDA, and that our Northwest wheat does not pose a risk to human health. I ask that Oregonians remain patient as we all wait for more details to emerge as part of the USDA investigation.

Audio of Director Coba's statement