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Monsanto Still Testing Genetically Modified Wheat in Two States

While last week's announcement of rogue GM wheat in Oregon was framed as an anomoly, Monsanto has current field testing of GM wheat in two states

Andrea Germanos, staff writer

The news of Monsanto's genetically modified (GM) wheat that turned up on an Oregon farm has brought repeated assurances that trials of this GM wheat stopped years ago.

But while the particular strain of its GM glyphosate-resistant wheat MON 71800 stopped, Monsanto resumed trials of other GM wheat in 2011, according to Bloomberg, which cites information posted in a U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) database.

Bloomberg reported that the corporate agriculture giant planted 150 acres of GM wheat in Hawaii last year and 300 acres of GM (also known as genetically engineered or GE) wheat in North Dakota this year. Monsanto did not disclose the specific herbicides these trial wheat crops are bred to tolerate, Bloomberg added.

These new GM trials, the seed giant told Bloomberg, are "an entirely different event" from the Monsanto wheat found on the Oregon farm.

In a statement last week, the company wrote, "Monsanto’s process for closing out the Roundup [glyphosate] Ready wheat program was rigorous, well-documented and audited."

A FAQ sheet from the USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS), which regulates genetically modified organisms, also emphasizes the completion of "glyphosate-resistant wheat" field testing. It states, "There are no APHIS-authorized glyphosate-resistant GE wheat field trials being conducted in Oregon or any neighboring states at this time."


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"APHIS authorized over 100 field tests with this specific glyphosate-resistant wheat variety in years spanning from 1998 through 2005. Field tests were conducted in Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Kansas, Minnesota, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oregon, South Dakota, Washington, and Wyoming," it continues.

This particular document does not mention field testing of other kinds of GE wheat taking place, which, according to Bloomberg's reporting, are in fact underway, though this other wheat may be genenetically engineered to be resistant to an herbicide other than glyphosate.

APHIS stated that "there are no GE wheat varieties approved for sale or in commercial production in the United States or elsewhere at this time."

The discovery of the rogue wheat in Oregon has already caused international backlash, with Japan suspending some imports of US wheat, South Korea testing all of its US wheat imports, and the EU urging its members to test some of its US wheat imports.

And on Monday, a wheat farmer in Kansas filed suit against Monsanto, charging that he and other U.S. wheat farmers have been adversely affected by the resulting actions following the rogue wheat in Oregon. The petition states that the "plaintiff has been harmed by any and all Monsanto GE wheat because it has impacted wheat exports and the price of wheat."


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