Posted August 27, 2013

Over 150 farm and food businesses and organizations signed a letter calling for USDA to improve its oversight of field trials involving experimental genetically modified crops (GM), according to a Reuters article, available here.  The letter is a response to instability in international markets after unapproved GM wheat was found growing in Oregon this spring.
The letter, available here, says that “USDA must fix its rubber-stamp approach to GE crops.”  The groups also suggested that USDA take action on several items including: ensuring a rigorous and transparent investigation of how the GE wheat event occurred; implementing a moratorium on GE wheat trials; establishing mandatory contamination prevention requirements; disclosing locations of GE crop field trials to nearby farms; and evaluating the market risks of new GE crops.
According to a press release from the Organic Seed Alliance, the group recently met with Secretary Vilsack asking “for a halt on GE wheat field trials.”  Todd Leake, a conventional wheat grower from North Dakota, said, “It’s extremely important that the USDA moves to protect the conventional wheat industry from the threat of contamination.”  Leake continued, GE wheat field trials “are underway in North Dakota” and “export markets have zero tolerance for GE traits in our wheat products.”
Japan recently lifted a two-month ban on U.S. western-white wheat which was imposed after the discovery on the Oregon Farm, according to a Bloomberg article.  Takaki Shigemoto, an analyst at JSC Corp. in Tokyo said that a resumption of Japanese purchases “may support wheat futures in Chicago, which have lost 15 percent this year on prospects for abundant global production.”  Japan depends on imports for almost 90 percent of its wheat. 
Monsanto said it stopped tests with the experimental wheat in 2004 or 2005 and does not know how the GM wheat came to be growing in Oregon this year.  USDA has said the incident was isolated and there is no sign of contamination in the commercial supply.  A study by Washington State University has found “no additional sign” of the GM wheat discovered in Oregon, according to an AgriNews article, available here.  The USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service also “found no other instances of the herbicide resistant crops beyond that one Oregon farm.”
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