Opens New Investigation Into Separate Detection of GE Wheat in Montana in 2014
WASHINGTON, Sept. 26, 2014— After conducting a thorough and scientifically
detailed investigation into the detection last year of genetically engineered (GE) wheat growing
in a single field on a single farm in Oregon, U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Animal and
Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) has concluded that the presence of the GE wheat
appears to be an isolated incident. The GE wheat found on the Oregon farm was developed by
Monsanto to be resistant to the herbicide glyphosate, also known as Roundup.
APHIS closed the investigation after exhausting all leads. The agency also found no
evidence of GE wheat in commerce. APHIS is releasing today its findings and full report of
investigation and evidence file, with appropriate personal information and confidential business
Additionally, APHIS has opened a new investigation into a regulatory compliance issue
involving GE wheat found growing at a research facility that was the previous site of authorized
field trials in Montana. GE wheat was field-tested under APHIS’ regulatory approval at the
Montana State University’s Southern Agricultural Research Center (SARC) in Huntley,
Montana, between 2000 and 2003. Genetic testing shows that the GE wheat at this research
facility location is significantly different from the GE wheat found growing at the Oregon farm
APHIS has not deregulated any GE wheat varieties to date, and thus, there are no GE
wheat varieties for sale or in commercial production in the United States. Additionally, the
genetic trait detected in the wheat in these two instances does not present a food safety issue
because FDA completed a food safety consultation for this GE wheat in 2004 and expressed no
food safety concerns.
APHIS began its comprehensive investigation into the detection of GE wheat on the
Oregon farm on May 3, 2013. During the following 10 months, APHIS conducted 291
interviews with wheat growers, grain elevator operators, crop consultants, and wheat researchers,
and collected and carefully reviewed thousands of pages of evidence. Additionally, APHIS
collected more than 100 samples from businesses that sold and purchased the same certified seed
planted in the field in Oregon, as well as from businesses that purchased the harvested grain from
The investigation indicates that this appears to be an isolated occurrence and that there is
no evidence of any GE wheat in commerce. Information collected during the investigation was
instrumental in providing critical information to trading partners to keep foreign wheat markets
open. After exhausting all leads, APHIS was unable to determine exactly how the GE wheat
came to grow in the farmer’s field.
The investigation also found that the GE wheat is not a commercial variety of wheat.
Instead, the genetic characteristics of the GE wheat volunteers are representative of a wheat
A copy of the 12,842 pages that comprise the complete report of investigation and
evidence file that has been redacted for personal information and confidential business
information is available on the APHIS website at http://www.aphis.usda.gov/foia/efoia.php.
On July 14, 2014, APHIS was notified that suspected GE wheat had been discovered
growing at the Montana State University’s Southern Agricultural Research Center (SARC) in
Huntley, Montana, where Monsanto and researchers grew GE wheat as part of field trials
between 2000 and 2003. These field tests were conducted under APHIS’ regulatory approval.
APHIS immediately began an investigation into this regulatory compliance issue and
sampled wheat at the SARC. Testing of the samples by a USDA laboratory confirmed that the
wheat is genetically engineered to resist Roundup. Further genetic testing shows that the GE
wheat collected from the field in Montana was not the source of the GE wheat found growing in
the single field in Oregon.
Among other things, APHIS’ ongoing investigation is focusing on why GE wheat was
found growing at the research facility location. GE wheat from the facility has not been allowed
to enter commercial channels this year and GE wheat grown as part of authorized field trials at
this research facility between 2000 and 2003 was likewise not allowed to enter commercial
channels. None of the wheat is sold as seed. APHIS will provide more information when it
concludes its investigation.
As it continues its investigation in Montana, APHIS is also taking several additional steps
to ensure that unintended GE wheat is not growing in other locations in the United States where
field trials are taking place or have recently occurred. APHIS will inspect field trials planted in
2014, and follow-up with post-harvest inspections to ensure those conducting the field trials
adhere to APHIS’ requirements to monitor for, and remove, volunteer plants (plants that grow in
a field following a previous harvest). It will also conduct some post-harvest volunteer monitoring
inspections of GE wheat field trials that were planted in 2012 and 2013. Beyond this, APHIS is
assessing other measures – such as the requirements it puts in place for field tests involving GE
wheat, as well as the frequency of its inspections of field test sites – to minimize the potential for
any further incidents involving GE wheat.
Originally Pubslished: USDA