Updated 1 October 2014

Information on GM wheat found in the USA - Fact sheet

What is the situation in Oregon, USA?

On 26 September 2014 the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced the conclusion of its investigation of genetically modified (GM) wheat detected in Oregon in May 2013. More information is available on the US Department of Agriculture website.

On 29 May 2013, the USA advised that a small number of GM wheat plants had been detected in a field in Oregon. The GM variety was confirmed as the glyphosate herbicide tolerant variety (MON71800) that Monsanto was authorised to field test in the USA from 1998 to 2005. The last field test in Oregon occurred in 2001. There were no field trials on the farm that the GM wheat was found on.

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.

Subsequent investigation and testing by the USDA concluded that it appears to be an isolated incident and there is no GM wheat in commerce.

No GM wheat varieties are approved for sale or commercial production in the USA, in Australia or anywhere else in the world.

What is the situation in Montana, USA?

On 26 September 2014, the USA also reported that GM glyphosate tolerant wheat plants were detected at a University research centre in Montana in July 2014. This research centre had been used to run approved field trials of GM wheat between 2000 and 2003. Testing indicates this is not the source of the GM wheat detected in Oregon. None of the GM wheat from this research centre has been allowed to enter commercial supplies.

The USA is continuing to investigate how this happened and conducting additional post harvest inspections for existing field trials to minimise further incidents. More information is available on the US Department of Agriculture website.

What is the situation in Australia?

There is no evidence to suggest that GM wheat has been imported into Australia.

Australia has a strong system to regulate GM plants and food:
  • the Office of the Gene Technology Regulator (OGTR) regulates work with GM organisms
  • Food Standards Australia and New Zealand (FSANZ) is responsible for food safety, including GM food
  • the Department of Agriculture 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.

The OGTR provides strict oversight of GM crop trials in Australia.

The Gene Technology Regulator has issued 16 licences for limited and controlled field trials of GM wheat, and 13 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. There has been no breach of containment for any GM wheat trials.

Wheat from these trials is prohibited from entering the human or animal food supplies.The OGTR approval process is transparent and information about GM crop trials, including locations of the trial sites, is available on the OGTR website.

What happens next?

The OGTR is continuing to liaise with Department of Agriculture and FSANZ to monitor and assess the situation in the USA.