Japan calls for more GMO info before lifting US wheat ban

By Kacey Culliney

- Last updated on GMT

Japan is awaiting further in-depth info on extent of GMO wheat in US before it opens imports
Japan is awaiting further in-depth info on extent of GMO wheat in US before it opens imports

Related tags: Western white wheat, Federal government of the united states, Genetically modified organism, Genetically modified food

Japan will not lift its ban on US Western White wheat imports until the American government provides detailed information on the extent of unauthorized genetically modified wheat found in Oregon, a government official says.

Last month a non-approved strain of Monsanto’s genetically modified (GM) wheat was found growing in a farmer’s field in Oregon, US. As a result, Japan placed a temporary ban on Western White wheat imports from the country.

BakeryandSnacks.com spoke to Toru Hisazome, deputy director of Grain Trade and Operations Division at Japan’s Ministry of Agriculture today.

He said a request has been placed with the US government for more in-depth information, but so far none has been supplied beyond an official US Department of Agriculture (USDA) statement.

“We need detailed information such as the extent to which GM wheat was grown… on how large the area of GM was.”

“The US government say that the GM wheat was grown in the state of Oregon, but we don’t have any more information,”​ he said.

Japan needs these updates as soon as possible, he added.

USDA working on it…

In its June 14 official statement, the USDA said: “Officials will continue to provide information as quickly as possible as the investigation continues – with a top priority on giving our trading partners the tools they need to ensure science-based trade decisions.”

It also provided an update on its investigation initiated on May 3 into the unauthorized GMO wheat found in Oregon.

“As of today, USDA has neither found nor been informed of anything that would indicate that this incident amounts to more than a single isolated incident in a single field on a single farm. All information collected so far shows no indication of the presence of GE [genetically engineered] wheat in commerce.”

However, Hisazome said this information is “nothing new”.

USDA GMO testing being re-validated by Japanese government

The USDA said it has also worked with Monsanto to develop a GMO detection method that it has made available to trading partners, including Japan. It validated the DNA-based method on June 13.

Hisazome said: “One of the conditions of importing again is that we need to develop a testing method for GM.”

He said the USDA had provided Japan with its validated DNA-based testing method, but that the Ministry of Health and Welfare was conducting its own validation of the method before use. This was still underway, he said.

Japan considers importing from elsewhere…

Hisazome said in light of the current situation, Japan is considering importing from elsewhere like Canada and Australia.

“If they have suitable wheat, we will import. But we still have a two-month stock, so we need not hurry,”​ he said.

Related topics: Business, East Asia, Japan

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