Detecting No GM Event, Korea Ends U.S. Wheat Import Suspension

ARLINGTON, Virginia — Korea’s Ministry of Food and Drug Safety (MFDS) has ended a temporary suspension of U.S. wheat imports after testing detected no genetically modified wheat in U.S. supplies. MFDS quickly deployed the test to assure U.S. wheat remains safe and reliable, adding confidence that nothing has changed the U.S. wheat supply chain’s ability to deliver wheat that matches every customer’s specifications. This action follows the discovery of a very small number of wheat plants that were genetically engineered (GE) to resist the herbicide glyphosate in an unplanted, fallow field in eastern Washington State in June.

Out of an abundance of caution, Japan’s Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (MAFF)is temporarily suspending only new purchases of western white wheat (soft white and 20 percent club wheat) from the PNW until it can validate and start using a customized version of the new detection assay test provided quickly by Monsanto and USDA. U.S. Wheat Associates (USW) expects that to happen by mid- to later-August. As we expect the testing will detect no GE wheat, the results will likely end the suspension very soon after Japan starts testing. In 2013, WW suspension was in place for 2 months. U.S. hard red winter and hard red spring tenders/purchases so open purchases (already contracted) with vessels loading in the PNW and discharge operation in Japan continue normally.

The Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) took prompt and thorough action to identify the regulated wheat event in the plants that were discovered and has confirmed to us that:
·        the situation was isolated to only 22 plants in a fallow field;
·        there is no health risk associated with this wheat event based on Food and Drug Administration evaluation;
·        there is no evidence suggesting that this wheat event, or any other GE wheat event, has entered U.S. commercial supplies;
·        a validated test to detect this event in wheat was quickly produced and made available to trading partners if so desired to help ensure that any market disruption will be limited and temporary; and
·        a statement with more facts about this situation is posted at https://www.aphis.usda.gov/aphis/ourfocus/biotechnology/brs-news-and-information/ct_news.

The agency has kept our organizations, as well as government officials in several key overseas markets, informed as it worked to find the facts. In turn, our organizations have shared information about the situation with the domestic grain trade and downstream customer organizations, as well as overseas grain trade and buyers in several countries that import U.S. wheat.

the National Association of Wheat Growers (NAWG), USW, and state wheat organizations believe that APHIS has successfully managed this situation and provided sufficient evidence that this has not affected commercial wheat supplies. Based on that and other facts, we are very confident that nothing has changed the U.S. wheat supply chain’s ability to deliver wheat that matches every customer’s specifications. In fact, the Korean Ministry of Agriculture, Farms and Rural Affairs has issued a public statement saying that there is no concern from Korean experts, including officials from the Quarantine Inspection Agency (QIA), that GM wheat has been or will be introduced to Korea.

It is also important to note that grain import officials in Japan and Korea have tested for the GE event identified in 2013 in virtually every load of U.S. wheat delivered to those countries since August 2013. The event has never been identified in more than 500 million bushels of wheat exported to Japan alone. In addition, researchers at Washington State University have been conducting routine phenotype screening for glyphosate tolerance in wheat since 2013. In each of the last three growing seasons, this field screening process has involved more than 80 varieties, 2,000 advanced breeding lines and more than 35,000 individual plots. Varieties included in these trials represent more than 95 percent of the wheat acreage planted in the state of Washington and much of the acreage planted in Oregon and Idaho. Screening to date has revealed no glyphosate tolerant wheat plants in these trials.

The federal systems in place ensure that unauthorized biotech products are tightly regulated and do not enter commercial channels. In fact, APHIS recently changed its rules to require developers to apply for a permit for field trials involving GE wheat. APHIS said this more stringent process will add protection that GE wheat will remain confined during the trials.

Nothing is more important to the U.S. wheat industry than the trust we have earned with customers at home and around the world by providing a reliable supply of high-quality wheat. We thank our customers for their reasonable approach to this situation and we are confident that public and private breeders and federal regulators are taking all appropriate actions to ensure that U.S. wheat, wheat flour and wheat foods remain safe, wholesome and nutritious for people, and in animal feed, around the world.

For additional information, please contact:

Ed Curlett
Director of Public Affairs
APHIS
301-851-4052

Steve Mercer
U.S. Wheat Associates
703-650-0251

Ainslie Campbell
National Association of Wheat Growers
202-547-7800

Glen Squires
Washington Grain Commission
509-456-2481