Ongoing test results of wheat varieties and surrounding fields points to an intentional release of wheat containing Monsanto's Roundup Ready trait last month in Oregon, the company's Chief Technology Officer Robb Fraley said Friday.
Fraley noted that the company has considered several factors in the investigation, including the prevalence of the affected wheat, the location of the wheat and the makeup of the wheat used to first seed the field.
According to a USDA announcement last week, the agency has validated a test to detect the Monsanto Roundup Ready wheat gene – also known as the CP4 event – and confirmed the release was an isolated incident "in a single farm on a single field."
Similarly, Fraley said an evaluation of its breeding programs and agronomic knowledge points to a suspicious release, due to the fact that the wheat was found in two isolated areas in a pattern inconsistent with regular-order planting.
"The evidence now collected, the fact patterns established and the original RR CP4 event appearing suddenly after 12 years, out of nowhere in a single field in the state of Oregon is highly suspicious," Fraley said. But, he noted, "We're open to many scenarios."
During the investigation process, Monsanto has tested 35,000 samples covering 58 wheat varieties to determine if there's any possibility that the GE wheat could appear elsewhere, the company said. That accounts for 80% of the wheat varieties grown in the Oregon and Washington area in 2011.
"While Japan and Korea have temporarily suspended new purchases of soft white wheat, it is important to note that we are not aware of any wheat orders being cancelled or any wheat deliveries being rejected," Fraley said, reinforcing the point that the company believes – and the USDA has announced – that the findings are isolated.
In addition, Fraley said the company has confirmed grain stored in accordance with trial requirements was either sent to a government storage facility in Colorado and destroyed, or sent to the company in St. Louis.
Grains grown on the farmer's field were also "clean," Fraley said, meaning they were clear of the CP4 event.
Fraley said reporting from the USDA and the grower's lawyer indicates that the grower is not responsible in this matter.
"It's fair to say that there are folks that don't like biotechnology and could use this as an opportunity to create problems," Fraley said, citing the recent FBI reports of GE sugarbeet fields being destroyed by activists.
"If there's someone who's prepared to break the law and enter a field illegally to destroy plants it's also possible that they could have broken into a field to collect plants," he said.
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USDA GE Wheat Investigation Continues
Monsanto Not Ruling Out 'Purposeful' Release of GE Wheat
GE Wheat Investigation Will Take Time, USDA Says
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