USDA has confirmed another instance of unapproved genetically modified wheat growing in the U.S., this time found on a research facility in Montana, the agency's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service said Friday.
GMO wheat has been studied in the U.S., but never approved for the commercial market. The Montana discovery follows a similar case in which GMO wheat was found growing on an Oregon farm last summer.
According to APHIS, the two instances are unrelated and the varieties are not the same, though both were engineered to be resistant to Monsanto's Roundup herbicide. Neither of the varieties present a food safety concern, according to statements from APHIS.
GE wheat was field-tested under APHIS' regulatory approval at Montana State University's Southern Agricultural Research Center in Huntley, Mont., between 2000 and 2003, APHIS noted. This is the same facility where the most recent discovery of GMO wheat was reported.
Oregon GMO wheat case
The announcement comes as the agency wraps up investigation of the Oregon case, releasing a full report on the investigation and the evidence file Friday.
According to the investigation, presence of the GMO wheat in Oregon "appears to be an isolated incident" and there is no evidence of any GMO wheat in commerce.
The initial discovery put export markets on high alert; Japan's Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries had suspended new purchases of western wheat in May, 2013, following the incident. Exports resumed in August, 2013.
After exhausting all leads, APHIS said, it was unable to determine exactly how the GMO wheat came to grow in the Oregon farmer’s field. Further, the investigation also found that the GMO wheat volunteers were "representative of a wheat breeding program" and not a commercial variety.
APHIS was first notified of the suspected GMO wheat on the Montana research facility on July 14, 2014. After sampling wheat at SARC, tests confirmed it was both engineered to resist Roundup, and not representative of the wheat found in Oregon a year earlier.
APHIS says no wheat at the facility was allowed to enter commercial channels.
Moving forward, APHIS notes that it will continue to ensure unintended GMO wheat is not growing in other locations where field trials are taking place or have recently occurred.
Reviews will include post-harvest inspections to ensure volunteer plants are removed, and 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, a statement said.
Catch up on the Oregon GE Wheat story:
May 29, 2013: USDA Identifies GE Glyphosate-Resistant Volunteer Wheat
May 31, 2013: GE Wheat Investigation Will Take Time, USDA Says
June 5, 2013: GMO Wheat Discovery Yields Lawsuit
June 6, 2013: Monsanto Not Ruling Out 'Purposeful' Release of GE Wheat
June 17, 2013: USDA GE Wheat Investigation Continues
June 19, 2013: U.S. Representative Wants Answers on GE Wheat
June 24, 2013: Monsanto Says GM Wheat Release Remains 'Suspicious'