GMO wheat find weighs on U.S. Pacific Northwest white wheat

CHICAGO, June 7 Fri Jun 7, 2013 6:42pm EDT

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CHICAGO, June 7 (Reuters) - Demand from overseas buyers remained quiet in the U.S. white wheat market in the Pacific Northwest this week, after the discovery of a genetically modified (GMO) wheat strain in Oregon was reported May 29, grain merchants said on Friday.

Japan, the U.S. largest white wheat customer, declined for the second straight week to bid at its weekly white wheat tender due to concerns about importing the unapproved type of wheat. South Korea has formally suspended U.S. wheat purchases, while the European Union said it would step up testing.

"Without them buying anything, the market's definitely a little softer," one grain merchandiser said.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture is still investigating the origin of the GMO wheat. USDA Market News reported this week that Pacific Northwest grain merchants pulled their bids for soft white wheat to be delivered in June to Portland, Oregon, a key export terminal in the Pacific Northwest, the largest U.S. export gateway for wheat.

White wheat delivered in July was quoted nominally on Friday at $7.34-1/4 to $7.40 range, down 30 cents in a week.

But grain merchants told Reuters that they were continuing to bid for wheat for domestic millers or feed mixers.

"I wouldn't say the numbers are pulled. I would say the numbers are thin," said Pearson Burke, grain merchandiser with AgVentures NW in Odessa, Washington.

The wheat industry and U.S. government officials are continuing to investigate the discovery of "volunteer" GMO-wheat plants that survived herbicide applications, while some farmers in the Pacific Northwest and Kansas filed lawsuits against Monsanto Co, the biotech seed developer.

The surprise discovery in 2000 that a GMO corn strain called Starlink unapproved for use in Japan had been found in a U.S. corn cargo there roiled U.S. corn shipments for months, costing millions in inspections, testings and cancellations.

Grains merchants said the white wheat market was quiet before the GMO wheat was found as buyers and sellers are waiting for new-crop supplies as harvest will start around July 1.

Underpinning the white wheat market remains a red hot corn market, which is running about $1 a bushel higher than white wheat in the Pacific Northwest, merchants said.

"I'm getting quite a few bids for supplying wheat into feed channels out here," Burke added.

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