U.S. seeks fast test to settle GM wheat scare -Vilsack

Tue Jun 4, 2013 2:28pm EDT
 
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By Charles Abbott

WASHINGTON, June 4 (Reuters) - The U.S. government is working with private companies to develop a rapid test for genetically modified wheat in response to fears about an unapproved wheat strain, said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack on Tuesday.

Buyers in Asia and Europe have shunned U.S. wheat since USDA announced last week that a strain of wheat, modified by Monsanto Co for herbicide tolerance, was found in an Oregon field. Genetically modified wheat is not approved for cultivation anywhere in the world.

Vilsack said development of a reliable, low-cost test for GM wheat was an Agriculture Department priority. Asked how soon a test would be available, Vilsack said, "Obviously, as soon as we can do it."

Current tests are expensive and time consuming, and the new test is intended to be quick and easy.

Vilsack's remarks, on the sidelines of a USDA event focused on cutting down food waste, were his first public comments on the subject since the GM wheat find was announced on May 29.

USDA officials have said daily there are no signs GM wheat was in commercial channels. Vilsack said development of a rapid test would allow grain exporters and processors to assure customers that their products are safe to eat.

With that assurance, he said, "The markets will be re-opened."

Japan, South Korea and the European Union have said they plan to test incoming wheat shipments for GM wheat. Preliminary tests by Korea on U.S. wheat and flour were negative, officials said on Monday. Final results are expected on Wednesday.   Continued...