Discovery of Genetically Modified Wheat in Oregon Could Jeopardize Northwest Exports

May 29, 2013

The U.S. Department of Agriculture confirmed today that an Oregon field is contaminated with a genetically modified strain of wheat.

A field of wheat in Washington County, Oregon, just outside of Portland.
Credit Werewombat / Wikimedia Commons

Montsanto tested a herbicide-resistant wheat variety in 16 states, but it was never approved for commercial production.

An Eastern Oregon farmer was letting one of his fields go fallow this spring, and sprayed it with the herbicide, Roundup. But that didn’t kill some wheat plants, so he sent them to scientists at Oregon State University for testing.

Robert Zemetra is a wheat geneticist at OSU. He says multiple tests have confirmed that the wheat carried a gene that is resistant to Roundup.

Zemetra says the contamination could pose a problem for wheat growers in the Northwest. Most of the region’s crop is exported to Asia and Europe, where consumers are wary of genetically modified foods.

“There will probably need to be some type of testing done on grain shipments to some countries to assure them that the material they are receiving is GMO free.”

Monsanto issued a statement saying that Roundup ready wheat is safe for humans and animals to eat, and that it has not received samples or details necessary to confirm the USDA’s report. I’m Amelia Templeton reporting.

Copyright 2013 Oregon Public Broadcasting