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Agriculture / Organisms » Staple Food Crops

Title: Unapproved GM Wheat Found in Canada, Imports Suspended by Japan and South Korea
Publication date: June 26, 2018
Posting date: June 26, 2018

THIRD WORLD NETWORK BIOSAFETY INFORMATION SERVICE

 

Dear Friends and Colleagues

Unapproved GM wheat found in Canada, imports suspended by Japan and South Korea

Canada is one of the world’s largest wheat exporters. Genetically modified (GM) wheat has not been approved anywhere, including in Canada, for commercial production. Last summer, however, Monsanto's GM wheat tolerant to Roundup, was discovered in Alberta province, as announced by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) this June (Item 1). A contractor spraying for weeds along an access road last year informed local authorities that a few plants were not killed by Roundup.

Monsanto had conducted field trials on Roundup-tolerant wheat from 1998-2000, as did Canada’s agriculture department, but not within 62 miles (100 km) of the discovery site. The CFIA confirmed the Alberta sample was a match for a GM wheat line used in research field trials two decades ago in Canada and the United States. The wheat was destroyed and the CFIA will monitor the area for three years to verify that it does not become established.

The Canadian National Farmers Union (NFU) says the incident shows that the CFIA failed to take adequate precautions when it permitted Monsanto to develop and test GM wheat in open-air fields 15 to 20 years ago over the NFU's objections.

Japan has since suspended its tender and sale of wheat from Canada upon CFIA’s announcement (Item 2). Japan is Canada's second largest global buyer of wheat at around 1.5 million tonnes a year. South Korea has joined Japan in also suspending trade in Canadian wheat (Item 3).

In 2013, several Asian countries temporarily banned U.S. wheat imports after GM wheat was found unexpectedly on a farm in Oregon. In 2016, a discovery of GM wheat developed by Monsanto in a farm field in Washington state prompted Japan and South Korea to temporarily suspend imports of some U.S. wheat.

With best wishes,

Third World Network
131 Jalan Macalister
10400 Penang
Malaysia
Email: twn@twnetwork.org
Websites: http://www.twn.my/and http://www.biosafety-info.net/
To subscribe to other TWN information services: www.twnnews.net

____________________________________________________________________________

Item 1

CANADA FINDS UNAPPROVED GMO WHEAT IN ALBERTA

Rod Nickel
Reuters
14 June 2018
https://ca.reuters.com/article/businessNews/idCAKBN1JA341-OCABS

Wheat containing a genetically modified trait developed by Monsanto Co to tolerate the Roundup weed-killer was discovered last summer in Canada’s Alberta province, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) said on Thursday.

The wheat, discovered near a rural road after it survived herbicide spraying, has not been approved for commercial use, said David Bailey, director of CFIA’s plant production division.

Canada is one of the world’s largest wheat exporters. While other crops such as corn and soybeans have been widely genetically modified to improve yield or withstand threats, GMO wheat has not been approved anywhere for commercial production because of concerns by consumers.

Canadian government officials have not identified the variety of wheat they discovered and said it is not present in the country’s grain or seed supply.

“The government is going to provide information to allow our trading partners to make informed, science-based decisions to continue trading in Canadian wheat,” said Kathleen Donohue, executive director of market access at Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada.

In 2016, a discovery of GMO wheat developed by Monsanto in a farm field in Washington state prompted Japan and South Korea to temporarily suspend imports of some U.S. wheat.

Field trials have previously been conducted on GMO wheat in Canada and the United States, but not within 62 miles (100 km) of the discovery site, Bailey said.

The wheat was destroyed and the CFIA will monitor the area for three years to verify that it does not become established, Bailey said.

Monsanto, which has been acquired by Germany’s Bayer AG, conducted field trials on Roundup-tolerant wheat from 1998-2000, as did Canada’s agriculture department, company spokeswoman Trish Jordan said.


Item 2

JAPAN BLOCKS CANADIAN WHEAT AFTER UNAPPROVED GMO PLANTS FOUND IN ALBERTA

Thomson Reuters
CBC
15 June 2018
http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/calgary/wheat-gmo-japan-genetically-modified-suspended-import-sale-1.4707563

A Japanese Farm Ministry official said on Friday it has suspended its tender and sale of wheat from Canada after plants containing a genetically modified trait were discovered last summer in southern Alberta.

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) said Thursday the wheat containing a genetically modified trait, developed by Monsanto Co. to tolerate the Roundup weed killer, was discovered along an access road.

"We are suspending the tender and sale of Canadian wheat until we confirm that the Canadian wheat that Japan buys contains no GMO," the Japanese official said.

Canada is one of the world's largest wheat exporters. Japan is Canada's second largest global market for wheat, taking $598.6 million worth in 2016, according to the federal government's website.

By comparison, the entire value of Canada's dairy exports totalled $235.3 million in 2016, according to the Canadian Dairy Information Centre.

Alberta Wheat Commission chair Kevin Bender said Japan's stance is disappointing. "We're hoping that it's very brief, that they get back to buying our wheat shortly," he said.

"We're confident that once they see the full CFIA report that they'll be satisfied that this was just an isolated incident."

While other crops, such as corn and soybeans, have been widely genetically modified to improve yield or withstand threats, GMO wheat has not been approved anywhere for commercial production because of concerns by consumers.

Lynn Jacobson, president of the Alberta Federation of Agriculture, said his understanding is that the incident involved just six or seven plants — found along the side of road as opposed to an actual crop field — that have been destroyed.

"It's a really isolated, very, very small incident. And they've kept that out of the system," he said.

Jacobson said the next step is for the officials from Canada to speak with the Japanese government about the situation.

"The thing is to assure our customers that they are not getting GMO product … when they're buying grain from us."

Alberta Economic Development and Trade Minister Deron Bilous said he is confident the ban will be short-lived.

"There were three similar incidents in the last five years in the U.S. and it took less than two months for them to complete their investigation and for Japan to restart imports," he said.

Open-air testing blamed

The National Farmers Union says the incident shows that the CFIA failed to take adequate precautions when it permitted Monsanto to develop and test GMO wheat in open-air fields 15 to 20 years ago over the NFU's objections, a project the company ultimately withdrew from consideration for regulatory approval.

"Today we see that an escape has happened, and that the regulatory process in place in the late 1990s and early 2000s did not even require biotech companies to provide the CFIA with full information about the plants they were testing," said NFU seed committee chair Terry Boehm.

Canada's wheat growers have dodged a bullet thanks to keen-eyed workers who spotted the GMO plants, he said. 

"But now would be a good time to stop open-air testing of genetically modified wheat to prevent potentially more serious incidents in the future."


Item 3

SOUTH KOREA SUSPENDS WHEAT AND FLOUR SALES FROM CANADA OVER GMO PLANTS FOUND IN ALBERTA

Moves comes on heels of similar move by Japan last week

The Canadian Press
18 June 2018 (updated 19 June)
https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/calgary/south-korea-wheat-flour-canada-farming-gmo-genetically-modified-1.4710750

South Korea has joined Japan in suspending trade in Canadian wheat following the discovery of a small number of genetically modified plants in southern Alberta.

It's standard protocol in both countries to temporarily close markets in such cases, Global Affairs spokesman Jesse Wilson said Monday.

"The Government of Canada is working with foreign trading partners to ensure they have all the necessary information to make informed decisions and limit market disruption," he said in an emailed statement.

Japan suspended imports of Canadian wheat on Friday after the Canadian Food Inspection Agency announced the discovery. South Korea followed suit on Monday.

Japan is one of the top importers of Canadian wheat at around 1.5 million tonnes a year and tends to buy the highest-quality grain at premium prices, said Cereals Canada president Cam Dahl. South Korea imports around 235,000 tonnes a year.

"I am confident that we have the answers that Korea is looking for just as I'm very confident that we have the answers that Japan is looking for," Dahl said, adding he's hopeful the suspension won't last for long.

Dahl said there have been no indications so far that the European Union and China would be making similar moves.

A contractor spraying for weeds along an access road last year informed local authorities that a few plants were not killed by Roundup herbicide, the CFIA said in an incident report. Tests found the plants were genetically modified to tolerate the weed killer.

Bans should be short-lived

Now a business consultant, Gary Mar is a former Alberta MLA and was the province's representative in Asia from 2011 to 2015. He told CBC News the ban should only last a matter of "two or three months," similar to what happened in 2013 when genetically modified wheat was found in the U.S.

"It took a couple of months of testing to make sure the GMO wheat didn't get into the supply and it was resolved and I expect the same thing will happen here with Korea and Japan as it relates to Canadian wheat," he said.

Gary Mar, Alberta's former trade envoy to Asia, says the ban on Canadian wheat should be short-lived. (CBC)

GMO wheat not allowed in any markets

Genetically modified wheat is not allowed to be grown commercially anywhere.

Tests have concluded the wheat did not make its way into the food supply and was isolated to a few plants in the ditch where they were found. Health Canada said there are no safety risks.

The CFIA said the genetically modified plants in Alberta were not a match for any of the 450 registered wheat varieties in its database. It confirmed the Alberta sample was a match for a genetically modified wheat line used in research field trials two decades ago in Canada and the United States.

U.S. agriculture company Monsanto Co. did the tests between 1998 and 2000 on fewer than two hectares in Canada, making up 0.1 per cent of total Canadian wheat plantings at the time, said company spokesman Jeff Neu.

The trials were about 300 kilometres or more away from where the modified plants were found in Alberta, the CFIA said.

"Given the passage of time and large distances involved, there is no evidence that would explain how or if the current GM wheat finding is linked with a previous trial," the CFIA said in the incident report.

In 2013, several Asian countries temporarily banned U.S. wheat imports after genetically modified wheat was found unexpectedly in a field on an Oregon farm.

The wheat found in Alberta was not a genetic match to plants involved in any U.S. cases, the CFIA report said.

Japanese scientists coming to Alberta

Deron Bilous, Alberta's economic development and trade minister, said Japanese scientists are en route to Alberta.

"We're working very closely with CFIA and are confident that similar to other examples in the past, that this will be resolved quickly."

Alberta Wheat Commission general manager Tom Steve says he is not concerned that the actions taken by Japan and South Korea might set off a domino effect.

"We know from our discussions with the Federal Government and Canadian Food Inspection Agency — which is part of the federal government — that they've reached out to all our significant customers," he said. 

"We haven't had any indications from our other major customers that this will interrupt the normal flow of grain. But we also will be working hard to ensure they have faith in our regulatory and quality control system and that we won't have any other disruptions.

"The U.S. is also a premium market and we don't have any indication they're going to stop exports."


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