Import freeze on bread wheat after GMO discovery

Genetically modified bread wheat (Triticum aestivum L.) has been found along the edge of an agricultural access road in southern Alberta Canada. Wheat that had survived treatment with glyphosate herbicide was observed in the summer of 2017. In February 2018, it was confirmed that spruce from this wheat was genetically modified and herbicide resistant. Government testing of this GMO shows that this GMO wheat does not match any of the 450 registered wheat seed varieties that are legal and sold in Canada. The wheat was later identified as incident MON 71200 and is not approved in any registered wheat variety. The discovery of MON 71200 is over 300km from the area where it was originally field tested between 1998 and 2000.

Tests from the CFIA (Canadian Food Inspection Agency) confirm that the wheat discovered in southern Alberta is the same as MON 71200 (Roundup ReadyTM wheat) to Monsanto where they conducted research field trials with MON 71200 from 1998 to 2000. MON 71200 is not authorized for commercial purposes. Where farmers have purchased one of the 450 registered varieties of wheat, it is probably unlikely that it also contains MON 71200. In response to this incident of finding GMO wheat MON71200 in an unregistered location, Japan has halted imports of Canadian wheat. South Korea has also stopped all imports of wheat from Canada.

Previous cases of escaped genetically modified wheat from Monsanto are MON 71800 which has been confirmed found in Oregon US in 2013. This led to import freezes from South Korea, Japan and Taiwan. Genetically modified wheat from Monsanto was found on July 2014 in Montana next to two fields where Roundup-resistant wheat had been field tested between 2000-2003. Escaped GM wheat MON 71700, a sister event to MON 71800, was found in the US state of Washington in 2016. MON 71800, MON 71700, MON 71400 and MON 71200, all from Monsanto, have all inserted a CP4-epsps gene to make the wheat resistant to herbicides with the active substance glyphosate from Monsanto.

On a worldwide basis, wheat is the third most cultivated species of spruce. Wheat is grown (2016) on approx. 220 million ha. in the world. Volunteer wheat that is already in the soil is a prior concern in an ecological risk assessment. In the worst case, wild wheat that germinates before harvest can lead to complete loss of crops caused by wheat virus. In North America, on average, approx. 12 individuals of volunteer wheat / m2 . These have approx. five years germination shelf life in the soil and is a significant seed bank. The genetically modified wheat will therefore lead to great difficulties in keeping the purity of the crops. Because these can be spread with pollen and seeds in wind and transport and remain in the soil as part of a source of transgenes in the soil for several years. In addition, they can be virtually immortal to the most commonly used herbicides with glyphosate.

Wheat MON 71200 contains two copies of cp4 epsps derived from the bacterium Agrobacterium tumefaciens strain CP4. This genetically modified wheat has been developed to be able to use glyphosate, the active agent in the herbicide Roundup, as weed control in spring wheat production. Endurance and invasiveness for this wheat is probably high. That is MON 71200 will be able to become part of the seed bank in the soil for many years and the probability is high that MON 71200 hybrids will continue in the field. The risk that the external fields persisting MON 71200 hybrids will become invasive over time is also high. In addition, it is an open question whether it is only a matter of time before wheat appears that is additionally resistant to glufosinate as in GMO wheat SUTAP60.




Japan blocks Canadian wheat after unapproved GMO plants found in Alberta

South Korea suspends wheat and flour sales from Canada over GMO plants found in Alberta

South Korea bans the import of Canadian wheat and flour



  1. Cowan. 2014. Unapproved Genetically Modified Wheat Discovered in Oregon and Montana: Status and Implications. Analyst in Natural Resources and Rural Development. Congressional Research Service.

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