31 May, 2013.


Information on GM glyphosate tolerant wheat found in the USA

What is the situation in the USA?

The United States of America (USA) has advised that genetically modified wheat plants have been detected on one farm in Oregon.

No genetically modified wheat varieties are approved for sale or commercial production in the USA, or in Australia.

The GM variety was the same as the glyphosate herbicide tolerant variety that Monsanto was authorised to field test in the USA from 1998 to 2005. The last field test in Oregon occurred in 2001.

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) assessed this variety of GM wheat in 2004 and determined that this variety is as safe for food and animal feed as non-GM wheat currently on the market.

The size and scale of the US detection is still being determined and it is too early to comment on what it means. The USA is working to find out how this happened and the extent of the situation.

More information is available from the US Department of Agriculture website

What is the situation in Australia?

Australia has a strong regulatory system to manage genetically modified plants and food:

  • the Office of the Gene Technology Regulator (OGTR) regulates work with genetically modified organisms
  • Food Standards Australia and New Zealand (FSANZ) is responsible for food safety, including GM food
  • the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry (DAFF) is responsible for import and export certification
  • the States and Territories also play an important role.

GM wheat has not been authorised to be grown commercially in Australia by the Gene Technology Regulator and has not been approved for food use by FSANZ.

DAFF has advised that no imports of wheat have been permitted from the USA for processing or human consumption.

The OGTR provides strict oversight of genetically modified crop trials in Australia.

The Gene Technology Regulator has issued 14 licences for limited and controlled field trials of GM wheat, and 11 of these licences are still current. Each trial is limited in size and duration.

Trials are conducted under strict licence conditions based on comprehensive risk assessment and risk management plans and involving strict containment measures. Sites must be monitored during and after trials and any remaining material after harvest destroyed.

Wheat from these trials is prohibited from entering the human or animal food supplies.

There has been no breach of containment for any GM wheat trials.

The OGTR approval process is transparent and information about GM crop trials, including locations of the trial sites, is available on the Office of the Gene Technology Regulator website.

What happens next?

The OGTR is liaising with DAFF and FSANZ to monitor and assess the situation.

The Australian Government has been communicating with the US government on this issue (in Canberra and Washington) and will continue to monitor developments as updates become available.