PULLMAN, Wash. (AP) — A study by Washington State University
has found no additional sign of the genetically modified wheat discovered at one
Oregon farm this spring.
The tests involved dozens of wheat varieties developed at
Washington State, the University of Idaho and Oregon State University, plus
varieties from Westbred/Monsanto and Limagrain Cereal Seeds, WSU said.
The time-consuming study included checking more than 20,000
individual plots, WSU said.
“WSU undertook its own investigation as part of its
commitment to serving Northwest farmers,” said James Moyer, director of WSU’s
Agricultural Research Center.
The study’s collaboration with the other universities and
the commercial seed companies was unprecedented and reflected the common goal of
trying to determine if the genetically modified wheat discovered in Oregon was
an isolated case or if the industry had a larger problem, Moyer said.
WSU’s data clearly suggests this was an isolated case, Moyer
The tests involved growing seed, spraying infant plants with
the herbicide glyphosate and conducting molecular testing. None of the plants
showed the glyphosate resistance found in the fields of an as-yet-unnamed Oregon
farmer, WSU said.
Recently, the U.S. Animal and Plant Health Inspection
Service also said grain tests and interviews with several hundred farmers found
no other instances of herbicide-resistant crops beyond that one Oregon farm.
The modified wheat was discovered in May when field workers
at an eastern Oregon farm were clearing acres for the bare offseason and came
across a patch of wheat that didn’t belong. The workers sprayed it, but the
wheat wouldn’t die, so the farmer sent a sample to Oregon State University to
A few weeks later, Oregon State wheat scientists discovered
that the wheat was genetically modified. They contacted the U.S. Department of
Agriculture, which ran more tests and confirmed the discovery.
USDA officials have said the modified wheat discovered in
the Oregon field is the same strain as a genetically modified wheat that was
designed to be herbicide-resistant and was legally tested by seed giant Monsanto
a decade ago but never approved.
Most of the corn and soybeans grown in the U.S. already are
modified, or genetically altered to include certain traits, often resistance to
herbicides or pesticides.
But the country’s wheat crop is not, as many wheat farmers
have shown reluctance to use genetically engineered seeds since their product
usually is consumed directly. Much of the corn and soybean crop is used as feed.
The USDA has said the wheat would be safe to eat if
consumed. But American consumers, like many consumers in Europe and Asia, have
shown an increasing interest in avoiding genetically modified foods.
The vast majority of Washington’s wheat is exported.
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