Japan and South Korea are suspending some imports of U.S. wheat after American agriculture officials discovered a field of unapproved genetically modified wheat, while the European Union is calling for tests on shipments to its 27 countries.
A South Korean food safety official said Friday if the genetically altered grain is found, it would be banned for distribution in the Asian nation.
"If detected, all of those would be recalled. As they are banned for distribution and import in South Korea, we would recall."
Japanese and South Korean officials moved to suspend the imports after the U.S. officials discovered the genetically modified wheat growing in a 32-hectare field in (the northwestern state of) Oregon. The EU said it called for tests to make sure that the continent's "zero tolerance" for genetically modified crops is enforced.
How the wheat ended up in the Oregon field remains a mystery. The strain of wheat was developed by the U.S.-based Monsanto agriculture products company to resist its Roundup herbicide, but field trials ended nine years ago.
Genetically altered corn and soybeans are grown regularly, but mostly consumed by animals. No genetically altered wheat has been approved in the U.S. for commercial production.
Genetically altering crops can increase their resistance to droughts and pests, but critics of the modifications say they can introduce toxins or reduce their nutrients.