WASHINGTON — Genetically engineered (G.E.) 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 (U.S.D.A.). According to the agency, the G.E. wheat in question is resistant to glyphosate, commonly referred to as Round Up.
“There is no evidence that G.E. wheat has entered the food supply,” APHIS said, adding that the U.S.D.A. is collaborating with state, industry and trading partners to provide timely and transparent information about any findings.
“There are no G.E. wheat varieties for sale or in commercial production in the United States at this time, as APHIS has not deregulated any G.E. wheat varieties,” APHIS said.
After previous detections of G.E. wheat (unapproved plants were found in 2018 in Alberta, in 2016 in Washington, in 2014 in Montana and in 2013 in Oregon), the U.S.D.A. strengthened its oversight of regulated G.E. wheat field trials. APHIS now requires developers to apply for a permit for field trials involving G.E. wheat beginning with G.E. wheat planted on or after Jan. 1, 2016. Bringing G.E. wheat under permit enables APHIS to create and enforce permit conditions that ensure confinement and minimize the risk that the regulated G.E. wheat will persist in the environment.
“We appreciate that U.S.D.A. 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 and National Association of Wheat Growers said in a joint statement. “We understand samples of the wheat plants from the field in Washington were sent to the U.S.D.A. Federal Grain Inspection Service lab in Kansas City as well as U.S.D.A. Agricultural Research lab in Pullman, Wash., for testing and confirmation.”
There are no G.E. wheat varieties for sale or in commercial production in the United States at this time, as APHIS has not deregulated any G.E. 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 U.S. Wheat 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.”