News / USA

Unapproved US Wheat Sparks Trade Concerns

Wheat is harvested on a farm in the midwestern United States, July 2009.Wheat is harvested on a farm in the midwestern United States, July 2009.
x
Wheat is harvested on a farm in the midwestern United States, July 2009.
Wheat is harvested on a farm in the midwestern United States, July 2009.
— Some countries are suspending imports of U.S. wheat after an unapproved genetically modified variety turned up in a farmer’s field in the northwestern state of Oregon.

The Oregon farmer discovered wheat in his field that survived treatment with the popular weed killer Roundup. Roundup is made by the seed and chemical company Monsanto.

The company has created genetically modified corn, cotton, soybean and canola crops that tolerate Roundup. Monsanto also had field-tested Roundup-tolerant varieties of wheat. The company never had the modified wheat approved or brought the seeds to market. But Michael Firko with the U.S. Department of Agriculture said 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,” said Firko.

Monsanto abandoned the genetically modified wheat project largely because customers in Europe and Asia are especially wary of what are known as GMO crops. The discovery of unapproved wheat in Oregon has already prompted Japan and Korea to suspend some imports, at least temporarily.

“Our customers don’t want it. So we, as wheat producers, don’t want to be producing it,” said Mark Welch, an agricultural economist with Texas A&M University. Though the U.S. is the world’s largest wheat exporter, Welch said this incident could affect that standing in a competitive world marketplace. U.S. farmers are at a disadvantage because production costs are higher here than in competitor countries, he said.

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

Right now it is not clear how this happened. U.S. regulators are working to trace where the genetically modified wheat came from. While there is no evidence yet that it has entered the food supply, the USDA is working to make tests available to customers seeking confirmation.

Meanwhile, many farmers are taking a wait-and-see approach. We reached wheat farmer Jerry McReynolds out in his spray truck.

“For me personally as a producer it’s not causing any grief at all. Of course, we don’t know what the whole story is.”

What he does know is that he is in the second year of a serious drought that is reducing his harvest.

“We’ve done all kinds of things to catch water when we do get rain. And we will. Someday. And we’re going to be ready. But right now, it’s tough,” said McReynolds.

Tough growing conditions across the U.S. wheat belt are a big factor weighing on the world grain markets, too. So far they seem to be balancing out concerns about the discovery of unapproved wheat, says Kansas State University economist Dan O’Brien.

“So you’re balancing reduced supply with an issue that, on the demand side, may or may not turn out to be a larger issue in the longer run,” said O'Brien.

Prices on global markets have not changed much since Wednesday's announcement. But O’Brien cautions that it is still early in the investigation. More surprises could be on the way.

You May Like

Video On the Scene: In Gaza, Darkness Brings Dread and Death

Palestinians fear nighttime raids, many feel abandoned by outside world, VOA's Scott Bobb reports More

African Small Farmers Could Be Key to Ending Food Insecurity

Experts say providing access to microloans, crop insurance, better storage facilities, irrigation, road systems and market information could enable greater production More

University of Michigan Wins Solar Car Race

Squad guided its student-designed solar-powered vehicle to fifth consecutive time victory in eight-day bi-annual American Solar Challenge More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Vietnamese Staging Chinese Product Boycott After Oil Rig Spati
X
Reasey Poch
July 28, 2014 7:18 PM
China recently pulled an oil rig from an area of the disputed South China Sea that Vietnam also claims. Despite the action, the incident has had a lingering effect on consumers in Vietnam. VOA's Reasey Poch reports from Hanoi on an effort to boycott Chinese products.
Video

Video Vietnamese Staging Chinese Product Boycott After Oil Rig Spat

China recently pulled an oil rig from an area of the disputed South China Sea that Vietnam also claims. Despite the action, the incident has had a lingering effect on consumers in Vietnam. VOA's Reasey Poch reports from Hanoi on an effort to boycott Chinese products.
Video

Video ESA Spacecraft to Land on a Comet

After a long flight through deep space, a European Space Agency probe is finally approaching its target -- a comet millions of kilometers away from earth. Scientists say the mission may lead to some startling discoveries about the origins of the water on earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Young Africans Arrive in US for Leadership Program

President Barack Obama's Young African Leadership Initiative has brought hundreds of young Africans to the United States for a six-week program aimed at building their knowledge and skills in fields such as public administration and business. Out of the 50,000 young Africans who applied for the program, just one percent was accepted. VOA's Laurel Bowman caught up with some of those who made the cut and has this report.
Video

Video In Honduras, Amnesty Rumors Fuel US Migration Surges

False rumors in Central America are fueling the current surge of undocumented young people being apprehended at the U.S. border. The inaccurate claims suggest the U.S. will give amnesty to young migrants from the region. As VOA's Brian Padden reports from Honduras, these rumors trace back to President Obama's 2012 executive order to halt deportations for some young undocumented immigrants already living in the United States.
Video

Video Students in Business for Themselves

They're only high school students, but they are making accessories for shoes, fabricating backpacks and doing product photography - all through their own businesses. It's the result of a partnership between a non-profit organization that teaches entrepreneurship and their schools. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan and Deyane Moses met the budding entrepreneurs near Los Angeles.
Video

Video Astronauts Train in Underwater Lab

In the world’s only underwater laboratory, four U.S. astronauts train for a planned visit to an asteroid. The lab - called Aquarius- is located five kilometers off Key Largo, in southern Florida. Living in close quarters and making excursions only into the surrounding ocean, they try to simulate the daily routine of a crew that will someday travel to collect samples of a rock orbiting far away from earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.

AppleAndroid