Fallout for U.S. wheat exports has begun following the USDA's announcement that unapproved GMO wheat had been discovered growing on a farm in Oregon, with Japan announcing that it will halt all Western wheat imports, and the EU strongly recommending that member states test wheat imports coming from the US.
The GMO wheat found in Oregon is the same strain that was part of a test batch grown by Monsanto between 1996 and 2004. No GMO wheat has been approved for sale in the US, and the question of how the wheat got into the field many years after the test sites were shut down is sounding alarm bells for many.
Japan, a major wheat importer from the US, canceled an order to buy US grain on hearing news of the discovery of the GMO wheat plants. "We will refrain from buying western white and feed wheat effective today," Toru Hisadome, a Japanese farm ministry official in charge of wheat trading, told Reuters.
Other major Asian customers for US wheat, including South Korea, China, and the Philippines expressed concern and said they were monitoring the situation. Asia imports 40 million tons of wheat per year, and the US is their No. 1 supplier, but most of these countries do not allow GMO grains for human consumption.
On the heels of the announcement from Japan, the European Union issued a statement urging its 27 member states to test incoming shipments of US wheat for GMOs.
"The Commission is following carefully the presence of this non-authorized GM wheat in Oregon in order to ensure that European consumers are protected from any unauthorized GM presence and make sure that the EU zero tolerance for such GM events is implemented," the EU's consumer protection office said. The EU imports more than 1.1 million tons of US wheat per year, but has much stricter bans on GMO foods than the US.
With these two swift announcements, concerns continue to grow that the discovery of just a few escaped GMO wheat plants on a single farm in Oregon will have far-reaching consequences for the entire US wheat industry.