WASHINGTON, D.C., U.S. —Genetically engineered (GE) wheat plants have been discovered in an unplanted agricultural field in the U.S. state of Washington, according to the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). According to the agency, the GE wheat in question is resistant to glyphosate, commonly referred to as Round Up.
“There is no evidence that GE wheat has entered the food supply,” APHIS said, adding that the USDA is collaborating with state, industry and trading partners to provide timely and transparent information about any findings.
“There are no GE wheat varieties for sale or in commercial production in the United States at this time, as APHIS has not deregulated any GE wheat varieties,” APHIS said.
After previous detections of GE wheat (unapproved plants were found in 2018 in Alberta, Canada, in 2016 in the U.S. state of Washington, in 2014 in Montana and in 2013 in Oregon), the USDA strengthened its oversight of regulated GE wheat field trials. APHIS now requires developers to apply for a permit for field trials involving GE wheat beginning with GE wheat planted on or after Jan. 1, 2016. Bringing GE wheat under permit enables APHIS to create and enforce permit conditions that ensure confinement and minimize the risk that the regulated GE wheat will persist in the environment.
“We appreciate that USDA is collaborating with our organizations and our state, industry and trading partners to provide timely and transparent information about their findings as they investigate this discovery,” the U.S. Wheat Associates (USW) and National Association of Wheat Growers (NAWG) said in a joint statement. “We understand samples of the wheat plants from the field in Washington were sent to the USDA Federal Grain Inspection Service lab in Kansas City, Missouri, as well as USDA Agricultural Research lab in Pullman, Washington, for testing and confirmation.”
There are no GE wheat varieties for sale or in commercial production in the United States at this time, as APHIS has not deregulated any GE wheat varieties.
“We cannot speculate or comment about any potential market reactions until we learn more from APHIS and have a chance to discuss the situation in more detail with overseas customers,” the USW and NAWG noted. “Based on what we know today from APHIS, we are confident that nothing has changed the U.S. wheat supply chain’s ability to deliver wheat that matches every customer’s specifications.”