Japan, one of the biggest importers of Oregon soft white wheat, has
suspended shipments pending an investigation into the discovery of
genetically engineered wheat plants in an eastern Oregon field.
Bloomberg News reported that Japan canceled a plan to buy nearly 25,000 tons of U.S.-grown white wheat, and said the European Union will recommend its member nations test U.S. wheat for the presence of gentically-engineered, or GE, material.
Japan and other Asian nations are the top markets for Oregon wheat, a crop valued at $300 million to $500 million annually. State agriculture officials, growers and shippers are deeply concerned the issue will cause a severe market reaction.
The discovery of GE wheat plants came when an unidentified farmer preparing a field for planting noticed that some plants he'd sprayed with the herbicide glyphosate had not been killed. He reported the finding to an Oregon State University researcher, who did preliminary tests and notified the Animal Plant Health Inspection Service arm of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
APHIS scientists confirmed the wheat plants were a genetically-modified strain field tested by Monsanto in 16 states, including Oregon, from 1998 to 2005. The variety, designed to resist Monsanto's Roundup herbicide, was never approved for planting. The last Oregon field test occurred in 2001, and agriculture officials say they do not yet know how it popped up in the Oregon field.
Food safety activists have long warned that genetically-engineered crops endanger health and farming practices. State and federal agriculture officials, however, insist the wheat in this case is safe for human consumption or for use as animal feed.
(c)2013 The Oregonian (Portland, Ore.)
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Distributed by MCT Information Services
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