Japan lifts ban on Canadian wheat over GMO

International trade action against Canada after the discovery of an isolated patch of genetically modified wheat growing in Alberta is over.

Japan last week lifted its temporary suspension of Canadian wheat and flour imports after conducting its own scientific testing. South Korea lifted its restriction June 26.

Federal Agriculture Minister Lawrence MacAulay and International Trade Diversification Minister Jim Carr issued a statement welcoming the decision, saying it “reaffirms the excellent quality and consistency of Canadian wheat.”

The unauthorized GM wheat was discovered last year along an oil well access road in southern Alberta and announced publicly on June 14. The federal government said at that time that the wheat had not made it into the food or animal feed system.

The Alberta Wheat Commission also said the decision signals Japan’s confidence in Canada’s science-based regulatory system and noted that GM wheat is not approved for commercial production anywhere in the world.

The commission said transparency with customers is a priority.

“Japan is a highly valued customer of Canada, and we are pleased to see that they have reaffirmed their confidence in our system and have resumed normal trade,” said AWC general manager Tom Steve.

How exactly the GM wheat came to be growing in that spot is still unknown. The site was more than 300 kilometres from where Monsanto had last tested the Roundup Ready strain years ago, and it didn’t match any of the 450 recognized Canadian varieties.

Canada produced 30 million tonnes of wheat on about 22 million acres last year. Exports are worth about $6.6 billion annually. Japan buys about 1.5 million tonnes and is typically the second-largest customer behind the United States.

“Japan is a long-standing, premium customer of Canadian wheat and is the highest grade buyer of Canadian wheat in the world,” said Cereals Canada president Cam Dahl.

“We appreciate that loyalty and highly value the collaborative nature of our trading partnership.”

Japan will continue testing import shipments.

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