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Unapproved genetically modified “mutant” wheat found growing on farm in Oregon.

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This week, federal officials announced that they had found unapproved, genetically modified wheat growing on farms in Oregon. They noted that wheat of this type was developed by Monsanto to resist the herbicide Roundup during the late 1990’s and early 2000’s. According to officials, for unknown reasons, Monsanto suddenly “dropped the project” in 2005 before seeking FDA approval.

The department said they had not determined if any of the wheat had yet entered the food supply or into grain shipments. The genetically modified wheat was found in at least two fields in the area.

A similar situation occurred in 2006 when unapproved genetically engineered rice was found growing in a farmer’s field. In that particular case, since the rice had been engineered to resist herbicides, it grew and spread like a weed, proving difficult for scientists to kill off the mutant plants.

Monsanto of course, was quick to downplay the event. Monsanto said in a statement that it was cooperating with the Agriculture Department, but said it believed the finding was either “invalid or highly unusual”.

“There is considerable reason to believe that the presence of the Roundup Ready trait in wheat, if determined to be valid, is very limited.”

Michael Firko, acting deputy administrator for biotechnology regulatory services in the Agriculture Department’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, said countries that import a lot of American wheat were being notified.  Additional scientists have been dispatched to the area for further investigation.

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