GRANTS PASS — Oregon farmers are moving ahead with plans to start planting their next crop as questions remain about the source of a patch of genetically modified wheat found in a farmer's field there last spring that threatened trade Pacific Northwest exports
Speculation about the origin of the unapproved wheat discovered in northeastern Oregon ranges from saboteurs to a passing flock of geese. The U.S Department of Agriculture's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service said Friday its investigation is ongoing.
Blake Rowe, the commission's CEO, said although Asian buyers stopped placing orders for a couple of months, the overall economic impact has been minimal. Japan, South Korea and Taiwan all resumed placing orders for Northwest wheat after tests failed to turn up any that was genetically modified.
The Japanese government tested 1.2 million metric tons of U.S. wheat for GMO material without finding any, according to the trade group U.S. Wheat Associates.
"The customers came back before the harvest was really finished," Rowe said from his Portland office. "It didn't really interfere too much with the movement of wheat."
If there is any more genetically modified wheat growing, farmers won't know until spring.
Though the USDA says the grain is safe to eat, it has not been approved for growing in the U.S. Japan and Korea won't buy GMO wheat, so they stopped placing new orders, though shipments on existing contract were not stopped, Padget said.
Oregon farmers typically produce 50 million bushels of wheat in a year, Rowe said, and as much as 90 percent of that goes for export, primarily to Asia. Due to drought and frost issues, this year's harvest likely will be less, though the final numbers are not in, he said.