On Wednesday, the U.S. Department of Agriculture announced that it was investigating a detection of genetically modified, glyphosate-resistant wheat in Oregon. Monsanto issued a statement on the report, saying that the company will work with the USDA to get to the bottom of the reported detection, and that there are no food, feed or environmental safety concerns associated with the presence of the Roundup Ready gene if it is found to be present in wheat.
The full Monsanto statement can be found at Monsanto.com. We’ve also included it in full following the timeline below.
The statement by the USDA can be found at the USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) web site. The site also includes a Questions and Answers document. And the USDA prepared a short video explaining the report.
The National Association of Wheat Growers and U.S. Wheat Associates also issued a statement on the report.
This timeline explains Monsanto’s involvement in GM wheat since the late 1990s.
Timeline of Monsanto and Wheat, Roundup Ready Wheat and GM wheat
1997: Monsanto begins technical development stage of Roundup Ready wheat.
1997-2003: Field testing of Roundup Ready wheat conducted by Monsanto and academic researchers suggests an increased yield potential of 5-15 percent.
2004: U.S. Food & Drug Administration issues Biotechnology Consultation Note for Roundup Ready wheat.
May 10, 2004: Monsanto discontinues Roundup Ready wheat program and wheat research because of lack of commercial opportunities and its desire to refocus on other crops.
March 2009: Monsanto commits $10 million to the Monsanto Beachell-Borlaug International Scholars Program, which provides scholarships to students seeking their Ph.D. in rice and wheat plant breeding.
May 14, 2009: U.S., Canadian and Australian wheat organizations sign statement that pledges they “will work toward the goal of synchronized commercialization of biotech traits in our wheat crops.”
July 14, 2009: Monsanto purchases WestBred, a wheat seed company based in Montana. The acquisition bolsters Monsanto’s seeds and traits portfolio and, with new drought- and pest-resistant traits in the R&D pipeline, aims to bring innovations to wheat farmers.
July 7, 2010: BASF and Monsanto expand research and development collaboration, adding wheat to the biotechnology pipeline.
2011: First biotech wheat project, a yield and stress trait, enters Monsanto’s R&D Pipeline.
May 2013: An original Roundup Ready wheat variety is discovered in Oregon farmer’s field. Monsanto is cooperating with the U.S. Department of Agriculture to determine how the wheat variety got there, and said there are no environmental, safety or health concerns of the Roundup Ready gene is found to be present.
Monsanto’s Statement on the USDA report on GM Wheat in Oregon
While Monsanto will work with the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to get to the bottom of the reported genetically modified wheat detection, there are no food, feed or environmental safety concerns associated with the presence of the Roundup Ready gene if it is found to be present in wheat. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) confirmed the food and feed safety of Roundup Ready wheat more than a decade ago. The Roundup Ready gene, which is widely used in multiple crops and by millions of farmers globally, has been also reviewed and approved by regulatory authorities in every country around the world to which crops containing that gene have been submitted for cultivation or import approval, including Japan, Korea and the EU.
Over the past decade, an annual average of 58 million acres of wheat have been planted in the United States. This is the first report of the Roundup Ready trait being found out of place since Monsanto’s commercial wheat development program was discontinued nine years ago. Our process for closing out the Roundup Ready wheat program was rigorous, well-documented and audited. We understand that USDA’s findings are based solely on testing samples from a single 80-acre field, on one farm in Oregon, which overwintered from the previous growing season. As is the normal practice in this part of the country, wheat fields are left fallow following the previous harvest and sprayed with glyphosate to control weeds and to preserve soil moisture. The company noted that this report is unusual since the program was discontinued nine years ago, and this is the only report after more than 500 million acres of wheat have been grown. Accordingly, while USDA’s results are unexpected, there is considerable reason to believe that the presence of the Roundup Ready trait in wheat, if determined to be valid, is very limited.
We will work with USDA to confirm their test results and as they consider appropriate next steps. We will also conduct a rigorous investigation to validate the scope of and to address any presence of a Monsanto Roundup Ready event in commercial wheat seed.
Earlier this month, USDA contacted us and requested information pertaining to an investigation into whether hard-to-control wheat from this field may contain a glyphosate-tolerance gene. We have provided materials, methods and offered technical assistance. The necessary testing requires sophisticated methods, considerable expertise and meticulous laboratory techniques to generate reliable results. Commercial test strips, which are used to detect the presence of glyphosate tolerance in soybeans, canola, cotton and sugar beets, generate a very high incidence of false positive detections (greater than 90 percent) and are not reliable for wheat. We have asked for information necessary to confirm the presence of the Roundup Ready trait in the samples that were tested. Up to this point, Monsanto has not received details about the testing USDA has performed, nor has USDA provided us with samples necessary to verify their findings
Importantly, as all parties work to verify these findings, the glyphosate-tolerance gene used in Roundup Ready wheat has a long history of safe use. The gene that was used in Roundup Ready wheat also produces the same protein that has been and is used widely in corn, soy and several other crops by millions of farmers throughout the world.