The mystery of how a variety of genetically engineered wheat supposedly abandoned by Monsanto years ago was found growing in an eastern Oregon field a few weeks ago has taken an interesting turn.
USDA’s own National Center for Genetic Resource Preservation, located in Fort Collins, CO, was storing the GM wheat seed as recently as late 2011, according to documents obtain by the Reuters news service. That means USDA is essentially investigating itself, since its Agriculture Research Service controls the Fort Collins unit.
The Center for Genetic Resource Preservation exists to extend the length of time that seeds can remain viable. According to the report, it took in 43 containers of the Monsanto “Roundup Ready” wheat in 2004-05.
Monsanto had conducted extensive testing of the GM wheat, and obtained certifications as to its safety. But it was never approved for commercial use, and the company abandoned the project because world wheat markets turned on the product. It contracted with the Fort Collins facility to store the wheat for several years, and then apparently had it all incinerated on January 5, 2012.
A Monsanto spokesman said all the seed at Fort Collins was destroyed at the company’s direction because it was old and the company has no plans for future use for it. (Some is archived at the company’s headquarters in St. Louis.)
“USDA can confirm that Monsanto and USDA’s Agricultural Research Service had a cooperative agreement to store glyphosate tolerant seed at its National Center for Genetic Resources Preservation (NCGRP) facility in Colorado,” said USDA in a statement to Food Safety News. “Whatever plant seed was sent to the facility has been incinerated. USDA continues to investigate the occurrence of GE wheat in Oregon.”
USDA’s investigation, which has been ongoing since the GM wheat plantings were found in Oregon, is now focusing on that Fort Collins inventory.
USDA previously called the Oregon GM wheat growth an isolated incident, and some speculated the mystery never would be solved. A spokesman for the Oregon Wheat Commission said it would be good to know precisely what happened.
Originally published: Food Safety News.