US Finds Unapproved Form of Wheat in Oregon

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17 June, 2013

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From VOA Learning English, this is the Agriculture Report.

Some countries have suspended imports of wheat from the United States. The suspensions were announced after an unapproved form of wheat was found in the American state of Oregon. The crop was made through processes of genetic engineering. 

An Oregon farmer recently discovered wheat in his field that survived the popular weed killer Roundup. Roundup is designed to destroy unwanted plants. It is a product of the seed and chemical company Monsanto.

US Finds Unapproved Form of Wheat in Oregon
Wheat is harvested on a farm in the midwestern United States, July 2009.

The company has created genetically engineered corn, cotton, soybean and canola crops that resist Roundup. Monsanto had field-tested Roundup-resistant wheat. But it never sought government approval of the wheat and the seed were never sold.

Michael Firko is with the United States Department of Agriculture, he says the wheat had passed safety inspections.

"Although there are no wheat varieties that are approved for unrestricted planting, we have no safety concerns related to planting of this transgenic wheat at this time."

Monsanto ended its wheat project mainly because buyers in Europe and Asia were concerned about the safety of genetically engineered crops. The discovery of unapproved wheat in Oregon led Japan and South Korea to suspend some imports, at least temporarily.

Mark Welch is an agricultural economist at Texas A&M University. He says American Farmers do not want to produce genetically engineered wheat because there is no demand for it. he also says the incident could affect America's standing in a competitive world marketplace.
 
The United States is the world's largest wheat exporter. Mark Welch says American agriculture already has difficulty competing against other countries because production costs are higher in the United States.

"If we're going to maintain a place in world markets, we have to do it primarily on two fronts: one on quality, and the other on reliability. And this raises a red flag, of course, when something like this happens."

Right now it is not clear how the incidents happened. American officials are working to identify where the genetically engineered wheat came from. There is no evidence yet that it has entered the food supply, However, the Agriculture Department is working to make tests available to buyers.

Prices of wheat on world markets have changed little since the discovery of the unapproved wheat. But this could change after the investigation is completed.

And that's the Agriculture Report, I'm Milagros Ardin.