Genetically modified wheat developed by Monsanto—but never approved for sale in the U.S.—has been found growing in Montana, the second U.S. state to discover unapproved GMO wheat growing in just over a year.
In May 2013, genetically modified wheat was found growing in an Oregon wheat field, which was identified as originating in Monsanto field trials of GMO wheat that ended close to a decade ago. The Montana wheat appears to be from a different Monsanto field trial with slight variations to the wheat found in Oregon. Officials are unable to explain how the wheat plants escaped the trials and have proliferated. In Oregon’s case, there were no field trials in the state.
According to Reuters, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection launched an investigation after the wheat was discovered in Montana in July, “the wheat was found growing at a research facility for Montana State University in Huntley, where field trials of Monsanto’s wheat were conducted between 2000 and 2003.”
Monsanto and Montana State said they notified APHIS of the discovery of GMO wheat and were “cooperating fully” with the investigation. “The wheat in question was developed by Monsanto to withstand treatments of its Roundup weed killer, but the company never commercialized the ‘Roundup Ready’ wheat,” reports Reuters. “International buyers threatened to boycott U.S. wheat if the product was introduced to the marketplace.” Upon the discovery of the genetically modified wheat in Oregon, countries including South Korea and Japan rejected exports of U.S. wheat. Several wheat farmers filed lawsuits against Monsanto seeking damages for the loss of sales. The U.S. is the world’s largest exporter of wheat, and the international marketplace is more stringent about GMO safety, which is why GMO wheat was never approved for production.