GM wheat appearance in Alberta remains a mystery

GM wheat has arrived in Canada, but unfortunately it was in the form of an unapproved trait found in an unknown variety of the crop.

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency has confirmed that Monsanto’s Roundup Ready trait has been discovered in wheat growing along an access road leading to an oil rig in a field in southern Alberta.

The plants where found in the summer of 2017 when they were sprayed with Roundup and didn’t die.

The farmer reported the disturbing discovery to Alberta Agriculture, which tested the plants and then passed its findings along to the CFIA for further testing.

David Bailey, director of the CFIA’s plant production division, said they can’t speculate on how the GM wheat ended up in the Alberta field, but he is confident it never left the location.

Seven plants were taken for testing and the remainder were destroyed. The agency has surveyed fields surrounding the location and tested the crops harvested on that farm in 2017.

“This is why we can say with confidence that it is not in the grain system and not in the seed system because we were able to isolate it and control it and destroy it,” Bailey told reporters during a June 14 conference call.

CFIA scientists are baffled by how the trait ended up in an unknown variety of wheat. There are 450 known varieties of wheat in Canada.

There have been Roundup Ready wheat trials in Canada, but they were conducted hundreds of kilometres away from where the rogue plants were discovered and the trials happened many years ago and never with this variety of wheat.

Canada is reassuring its trade partners that there is no GM wheat in the commercial system. The CFIA has developed a test kit for importers to use to detect the trait.

The CFIA said it is prepared for any questions importers may ask and is providing them with information to help them make “informed, science-based decisions.”

CFIA will be monitoring the farm and surrounding areas for the next three years. The land where the GM wheat was discovered will be kept fallow and will be sprayed with a herbicide that kills GM wheat.

Contact sean.pratt@producer.com

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