Unapproved GMO wheat found in Washington

This isn't the first time the USDA has discovered unapproved genetically modified wheat plants.

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Despite the fact that genetically modified (GM) wheat has not been approved in the U.S., the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has discovered some in an un-planted agricultural field in Washington.

The USDA’s Animal Plant Health and Inspection Service (APHIS) confirmed in an email that the wheat had been discovered but failed to say when or the exact location where it was found.

“USDA is collaborating with our state, industry and trading partners, and we are committed to providing all our partners with timely and transparent information about our findings,” said an official statement.

The wheat found, like all GM wheat developed by Monsanto, is resistant to glyphosate. There are currently no approved GM wheat varieties. Monsanto ended their development of GM wheat in 2004 over concerns about rejection from foreign buyers.

This isn’t the first time that GM wheat resistant to glyphosate has been found. Unapproved plants were found in 2018 in Alberta, Canada, in 2016 also in Washington state, in 2014 in Montana, and in 2013 in Oregon.

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The discovery in Montana was at a research center and not a commercial farm so there was no danger of the GMO wheat spreading by freight or dairy equipment. But the discovery in an Oregon field where commercial crops were grown led to several Asian countries banning U.S. wheat.

Montana is particularly concerned about the findings. Modified wheat is banned by foreign buyers of U.S. wheat and more than 70 percent of Montana’s grain is sold overseas to various places in the South Pacific.

According to Bayer, the megacorporation that bought Monsanto last year, this most recent discovery of GM wheat may have been found at the site of a former field trial. Bayer says they are cooperating with the USDA to investigate the situation.

“Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service has confirmed the discovery of genetically engineered wheat plants growing in an unplanted agricultural field in Washington State,” APHIS said in an announcement. “The GE wheat in question is resistant to glyphosate, commonly referred to as Roundup. There is no evidence that GE wheat has entered the food supply.”

Glyphosate, the main active ingredient in Roundup has been classified as a “probable carcinogen” by the World Health Organization. Bayer/Monsanto currently faces lawsuits by more than 13,400 plaintiffs that allege the product causes cancer and just last month a California jury awarded more than $2 billion to a couple that argued Roundup caused their non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

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