Andy Coghlan reports for New Scientist that the, “Investigations continues this week into how unauthorized genetically modified wheat ended up on a farm in Oregon.”
According to the report, “No varieties of GM wheat have been cleared for commercial use anywhere in the world.”
The wheat plants in question are believed to be the legacy of a research programme that was abandoned nine years ago. How and why they have resurfaced is unclear.
The discovery last week triggered an international reaction, with both South Korea and Japan temporarily suspending imports of US wheat. South Korea has also begun testing existing wheat imports from the US for signs of GM wheat, with no positive results so far.
The GM wheat was developed by Monsanto, an agricultural biotech giant based in St Louis, Missouri. Like many of Monsanto’s plants, the wheat was developed to be resistant to the company’s broad-spectrum weed-killer glyphosate, marketed as Roundup. The wheat was cleared by the US Food and Drug Administration in 2004 as safe for human consumption, but Monsanto abandoned commercial development the same year, citing a drop in demand.
The Oregon farmer discovered GM wheat growing in his field after it had survived a dose of Round-Up, the report states. But, Monsanto is “mystified by the appearance of this wheat,” Coughlan continues.
As part of its programme to develop the GM wheat, it had tested the GM varieties between 1998 and 2004 in 17 US states, including Oregon. But it destroyed all tested material after abandoning the programme in 2004 so, in theory, none should be left.
This type of GM “white” wheat will not cause problems in Europe, as it’s more suited for “noodles”, a popular fare in Asia, Coughlan explains. Europe has imported none of this crop in the last two years.
Read the full report, click here.