Unapproved genetically engineered wheat was found in an Oregon field, according to a report by the Agriculture Department.
The USDA announced the find on Wednesday, explaining that the GMO wheat discovered is the same strain as a genetically modified wheat tested by seed giant Monsanto a decade ago.
The GMO wheat was never approved by the FDA and Monsanto stopped testing the product in Oregon and several other states in 2005.
There is currently no genetically modified wheat approved for use in the United States. Dr. Michael Firko of the USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service explained that a farmer discovered the GMO wheat on his farm and contacted Oregon State University.
The university then notified the USDA earlier this month. The agency assured that the genetically engineered wheat is safe to eat. However, the department is trying to find out how it ended up in the field, whether there was any criminal wrongdoing, and whether the GMO wheat’s growth is widespread.
While this was the only report of GMO wheat the USDA has received, it is still taking the discovery very seriously. It could have far-reaching implications for the US wheat industry, should the growth of the product be widespread.
Several countries around the world will not accept GMO products imported into their countries and by law organic foods sold in the United States cannot be engineered or modified in any way.
Organic companies have frequently expressed their concern that genetically modified seeds can either blow into their farm or be carried onto them by wild birds. The GMO seeds would contaminate organic farm products.
The Oregon Department of Agriculture stated that the farm in question is in Eastern Oregon. USDA officials have not yet released information on whether the GMO wheat seeds were blown into the farm, or if they were planted there or taken there. They have not identified the farmer who discovered the plants, or the farm’s exact location.
[Image via ShutterStock]