The Agriculture Department said today that a non-approved strain of genetically engineered wheat has been discovered in a field in Oregon. A farmer discovered the plants on his farm and contacted Oregon State University, which notified USDA early this month. No genetically engineered wheat is currently approved for US farming. USDA officials said the wheat is the same strain as a genetically modified wheat that was legally tested by seed giant Monsanto a decade ago but never approved. Monsanto stopped testing that product in Oregon and several other states in 2005.
The USDA said the wheat is safe to eat, but the department is investigating how it ended up in the field, whether there was any criminal wrongdoing, and whether its growth is widespread. USDA officials declined to speculate whether the modified seeds blew into the field from a testing site or if they were somehow planted or taken there, and they would not identify the farmer or the farm's location. The discovery could have far-reaching implications for the US wheat industry if the growth of the engineered product turns out to be widespread. Many countries around the world will not accept imports of genetically modified foods. (Read more Oregon stories.)