The ban comes after a non-approved strain of genetically modified (GM) wheat was found growing in a farmer's field in the state of Oregon, US. Katy Coba, director of the Oregon Department of Agriculture, said the discovery was "a very serious development that could have major trade ramifications."
Speaking to BakeryandSnacks.com this morning, Toru Hisazome, deputy director of Grain Trade and Operations Division at Japan’s Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, confirmed the block on wheat imports but said the move was only “temporary”.
“We have stopped imports on Western White wheat for the moment because it is mainly grown in the state of Oregon, so we’re not sure about the current situation,” Hisazome said.
“We have asked the US government to give us more information because of the current investigation it is doing on GMO wheat found in the state,” he said.
How long the seizure on imports will continue for remains unknown, he said, as Japan awaits more details from the US government.
“We don’t know much about the current situation in the US,” he said.
Monsanto in the firing line…
The detected GMO wheat has been linked to Monsanto’s GMO test trials conducted in the US between 1994 and 2005. The firm ran tests on altered seeds using the ‘Roundup Ready gene’ in more than a dozen states, including Oregon but the strain was never approved for commercial use.
The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) has launched a full investigation into the finding and Monsanto has said it will work with the government to “get to the bottom” of the detected GMO wheat.
In a statement the Monsanto said: “There are no food, feed or environmental safety concerns associated with the presence of the Roundup Ready gene if it is found to be present in wheat.”
“…This is the first report of the Roundup Ready trait being found out of place since Monsanto’s commercial wheat development program was discounted nine years ago. Our process for closing out the Roundup Ready wheat program was rigorous, well-documented and audited.”
It said that while “unexpected”, if the findings are validated, the presence of the trait in the wheat would be very limited.
“We will work with the USDA to confirm their test results and as they consider appropriate next steps. We will also conduct a rigorous investigation to validate the scope of and to address any presence of a Monsanto Roundup Ready event in commercial wheat seed,” it concluded.
Wider global wheat trade shake-up?
South Korea has also reportedly suspended tenders to import US wheat after consideration and reported discussions with the USDA and Taiwan is also said to be reviewing imports.
The European Commission has made calls to check all soft wheat imported from the US in light of the findings.