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USDA FAQ: GMO Wheat Detection in Oregon

USDA FAQ: GMO Wheat Detection in Oregon

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Published by Amelia Templeton
A fact sheet covering the May 2013 discovery of Roundup resistant wheat in Oregon.
A fact sheet covering the May 2013 discovery of Roundup resistant wheat in Oregon.

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Published by: Amelia Templeton on May 30, 2013
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial


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Biotechnology Regulatory Services
May 2013
Questions andAnswers:USDA InvestigatingDetection ofPositive GeneticallyEngineered (GE)Glyphosate-Resistant Wheat inOregon
Q: Why were the initial samples referred to theOregon State University (OSU) scientist?A:
An Oregon farmer noticed some volunteers, orplants that had germinated and developed in a placewhere they were not intentionally planted, in hiswheat
eld, were resistant to glyphosate and sentthe samples to the OSU scientist. She receivedthe samples on April 30, 2013, and conducted testson the samples. Based on her preliminary tests,the samples she received tested positive for theglyphosate trait and the farmer was informed of thetesting results.
Q: What did USDA do after being noti
ed by theOregon State University scientist?A:
APHIS was contacted by the Oregon StateUniversity scientist on May 3, 2013, after her testresults from an Oregon farm’s volunteer plantsindicated the possible presence of the transgenethat conveys resistance to the commonly-usedherbicide glyphosate. APHIS immediately began aformal investigation into this situation that included,among other things, dispatching investigatorsonsite to investigate how this situation occurred andcollecting additional samples from the farm. Thistesting is extremely complicated and time consuming.APHIS made the public announcement about thisdetection as soon as USDA laboratories had absolutecon
rmation regarding the speci
c GE glyphosate-resistant wheat variety.
Q: Has APHIS ever authorized
eld testing of GEwheat in Oregon?A:
APHIS last approved
eld trials of glyphosate-resistant GE wheat in Oregon in 2001. There are noAPHIS-authorized glyphosate-resistant GE wheat
eldtrials being conducted in Oregon or any neighboringstates at this time.
Q: Are there other states where APHIS hasapproved the
eld testing of this same glyphosate-resistant GE wheat variety detected in Oregon?Where and when?A:
Yes. APHIS authorized over 100
eld tests withthis speci
c glyphosate-resistant wheat variety inyears spanning from 1998 through 2005. Field testswere conducted in Arizona, California, Colorado,Florida, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Kansas, Minnesota,Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oregon, SouthDakota, Washington, and Wyoming.
Q. Has FDA completed an assessment to ensurethe safety of Monsanto’s GE glyphosate-resistantwheat?A.
Yes. The FDA completed a voluntary consultationon the safety of food and feed derived from this wheatvariety in 2004. For the consultation, the developerprovided information to FDA to support the safetyof this wheat variety. FDA completed the voluntaryconsultation with no further questions concerning thesafety of grain and forage derived from this wheat,meaning that this variety of wheat is as safe for foodand feed use as non GE-wheat varieties now on themarket.FDA’s consultation summary, which includes thedeveloper’s conclusion that “this wheat variety is notmaterially different in composition, safety, or any otherrelevant parameter from wheat now grown, marketed,and consumed,” can be found here:http://www.fda.gov/Food/FoodScienceResearch/Biotechnology/ Submissions/ucm155777.htm FDA’s letter to the developer can be seen at:http://www.fda.gov/Food/FoodScienceResearch/ Biotechnology/Submissions/ucm155752.htm
Q. What is the status of GE wheat production byindustry?A:
To our knowledge, GE wheat is not currentlyauthorized for commercial sale or planting in anycountry. We understand that there have been,over the past decade or so, ongoing discussions
among wheat industry representatives, technologydevelopers, and major users of wheat both in the UnitedStates and overseas about when GE wheat varietiesmight be commercially introduced into the worldwidemarketplace.
Q: Does the U.S. export wheat from Oregon?A:
Yes. According to Oregon Wheat Commission,Oregon exports 90 percent of its wheat production.
Q: What type of wheat is exported from Oregon?A:
According to Oregon Wheat Commission, Oregonproduces predominately soft white wheat and exports90 percent of its wheat production.
Q: Is this GE wheat present in commerce?A:
At this time, we have no information that thisGE glyphosate-resistant wheat variety has enteredcommerce. There is no public health concern. Ourfocus is on our ongoing investigation.
Q: What do you think the worldwide impact of this
nding will be?A:
We don’t wish to speculate on market reaction. Asboth a leading producer and consumer of wheat, theUnited States is directly aware of the concerns thatan event like this could raise in the food/feed supplychain, from seed producers and farmers to retailers andconsumers. We are working hard to reassure domesticand global wheat consumers that this development,although unwelcome, does not pose a risk to foodsafety.
Q: Might GE wheat be in U.S. food aid shipments?A:
Foods exported commercially or as food aid bythe United States are the same foods consumedby Americans every day. This is the case with allcommodities, including wheat. This development doesnot compromise our ability to provide recipients of U.S.food aid with healthy, wholesome, and nutritious foods.For the 2012/13 marketing year (June 2012-May2013),USDA and USAID have provided an estimated 498,000tons of wheat as food aid with an estimated valuebetween $180 -$200 million.
Q: What does APHIS’ investigative process entail?A:
APHIS may refer potential situations to itsInvestigative and Enforcement Services (IES) stafffor further investigation. APHIS has done so in thisinstance and an onsite investigation has been initiated.APHIS also works closely with State Departments ofAgriculture and other federal agencies, including theFood and Drug Administration, the EnvironmentalProtection Agency and the Department of Justice,to ensure compliance with APHIS regulations. ThePlant Protection Act provides for substantial penaltiesfor serious infractions, including civil penalties up to$1,000,000 and the possibility of criminal prosecution.APHIS has a Memorandum of Understanding withUSDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service and GrainInspection, Packers and Stockyards Administrationfor those agencies to provide technical sampling andtesting expertise, when needed to support an APHISinvestigation.
Q: What did USDA test as part of its investigation?A:
At this time, USDA has tested DNA extracted fromtissue from wheat plants collected in the
eld by APHISinvestigators; seeds or kernels of suspect wheat are notavailable at this time.
Q: Are there plans to expand the testing for thisevent?A:
USDA is conducting the investigation in a step-wiseapproach. Any additional testing for the investigationwill depend on the outcome of tests currently underway.
Q: What tests are available to detect this event? Arethese commercially available?A:
The polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test, whichdetects the DNA of the GE event, is used to detectit. The PCR test is a highly sensitive test that must beconducted by a competent laboratory with a validatedmethod. Currently, there are no commercially availablerapid tests validated for detecting the glyphosate-resistant trait in wheat. At APHIS’ request, GIPSA iscurrently evaluating whether rapid tests validated fordetecting the trait in other grains can do so in wheat.
Q: Will APHIS take any action against the Oregonfarmer in this situation?A:
We have no reason to believe at this time thatthe farmer who reported the presence of glyphosate-resistant GE wheat volunteers in his
eld has committedany infraction.
Q: If APHIS were to detect GE glyphosate-resistantwheat in commercial seed and grain, what wouldAPHIS’ next steps be?A:
In instances when there are detections of low levelsof regulated GE plant material in commercial seeds andgrain, APHIS will initiate an inquiry to determine thecircumstances surrounding the release, evaluate therisk, and determine what regulatory actions includingremedial and enforcement actions, are required.This is the basis for APHIS’ low level presence (LLP)policy, which APHIS clari
ed in March 2007. If APHISdetermines that an incident involving regulated GE

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