WASHINGTON, June 13 The U.S. Agriculture
Department, reeling from the discovery of unapproved genetically
modified (GM) wheat growing in Oregon, said on Thursday it is
working to make "appropriate and validated" tests available to
detect the wheat.
Domestic and overseas buyers of wheat are keen to have rapid
tests to ensure biotech grain is not in their shipments.
Japan has excluded white wheat grown in the U.S. Pacific
Northwest from its regular tenders for the past three weeks,
although it has continued to buy other U.S. wheat varieties.
South Korea and the E.U. plan to test incoming shipments.
Export demand for PNW-sourced wheat has dried up. In the
week ended June 6, the first full reporting period since the
Oregon discovery was announced, sales were just 1,280 tonnes,
USDA said on Thursday. That was far below sales averaging 69,000
for the corresponding week over the previous five marketing
years, USDA's sales database shows.
The USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service said
that currently, there is no commercially available, validated
rapid test for GM wheat.
The Grain Inspection, Packers and Stockyards Administration
(GIPSA), another branch of the department, is working on tests
to "address market needs," USDA said.
In a release, the service said its investigation into the
Oregon wheat find continues. It said no other examples of the
unapproved strain have been found, and it has no information
that any GM wheat is in commercial supply chains.
Separately, USDA said it continues to issue, upon request by
exporters, letters saying simply, "There are no transgenic wheat
varieties for sale or in commercial production in the United
States at this time."
Monsanto, developer of the wheat, has provided to
foreign regulators information on how to test for its genetic
modification. But the tests are complex and time consuming.
The unapproved wheat found in Oregon was developed years ago
by Monsanto, which abandoned field tests in 2005 because there
was no market for the wheat. The unwanted "volunteer" wheat
sprouted in a field being held fallow this year.