Canada finds unapproved GMO wheat in Alberta

Marco Green
June 18, 2018

The agency said extensive scientific testing has found the wheat is isolated to the site where it was found and poses no food safety risk.

"We can not speculate on how it arrived", said David Bailey of the Canadian Food Inspection Agency. "We hope that it's very brief", Bender said Friday.

Officials found the plants off an access road - and not the main growing area - of a farm in southern Alberta in summer of previous year. They noticed them because they survived a spraying treatment for weeds.

The plant, from unidentified origin, was initially found on a frontage road within Alberta a year ago, shortly after it made it through spraying of the location using weed killer, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) pointed out Thursday.

They did not say how many plants were found, only that seven were tested and the rest destroyed.

"While genetically modified wheat is not approved for commercial use in Canada, the same genetically modified trait has been approved in canola, corn and soybeans for over 20 years", the CFIA said.

Monsanto, which has been acquired by Germany's Bayer AG, conducted field trials on Roundup-tolerant wheat from 1998-2000, as did Canada's agriculture department, company spokeswoman Trish Jordan said.

Officials aren't sure what type of wheat is involved because it doesn't match any of Canada's approximately 450 registered varieties, he said.

Still, the incident raised questions about possible trade disruptions. In 2016, Japan and South Korea temporarily suspended US wheat imports after a similar GMO wheat finding. Another discovery in 2016 led to a similar block.

"We have developed a test kit we can share with trading partners who wish to test their own grain that comes from Canada", he told an Ottawa news conference.

Southern Alberta wheat farmers are concerned after Japan, Canada's second-largest wheat customer, announced it would block all imports of the product after GMO plants were identified in the province.

The agency also said it will work with the landowner to monitor the area over the next three years to help prevent any genetically modified wheat from persisting.

Still, Lucy Sharratt, co-ordinator at the Canadian Biotechnology Action Network, said the discovery is perplexing. "Without knowing the cause, contamination could happen again".

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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