Canada finds unapproved GMO wheat in Alberta

WINNIPEG, Manitoba (Reuters) - Wheat containing a genetically modified trait developed by Monsanto Co to tolerate the Roundup weed-killer was discovered last summer in Canada’s Alberta province, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) said on Thursday.

The wheat, discovered near a rural road after it survived herbicide spraying, has not been approved for commercial use, said David Bailey, director of CFIA’s plant production division.

Canada is one of the world’s largest wheat exporters. While other crops such as corn and soybeans have been widely genetically modified to improve yield or withstand threats, GMO wheat has not been approved anywhere for commercial production because of concerns by consumers.

Canadian government officials have not identified the variety of wheat they discovered and said it is not present in the country’s grain or seed supply.

“The government is going to provide information to allow our trading partners to make informed, science-based decisions to continue trading in Canadian wheat,” said Kathleen Donohue, executive director of market access at Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada.

In 2016, a discovery of GMO wheat developed by Monsanto in a farm field in Washington state prompted Japan and South Korea to temporarily suspend imports of some U.S. wheat.

Field trials have previously been conducted on GMO wheat in Canada and the United States, but not within 62 miles (100 km) of the discovery site, Bailey said.

The wheat was destroyed and the CFIA will monitor the area for three years to verify that it does not become established, Bailey said.

Monsanto, which has been acquired by Germany’s Bayer AG, conducted field trials on Roundup-tolerant wheat from 1998-2000, as did Canada’s agriculture department, company spokeswoman Trish Jordan said.

Reporting by Rod Nickel in Winnipeg, Manitoba; additional reporting by Tom Polansek in Chicago; editing by Grant McCool and Tom Brown