The Japanese farm ministry on June 15 said it has suspended its tender and sale of wheat from Canada until it is able to confirm that the Canadian wheat that it buys contains no GMOs.
The situation came to light after the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) made public Thursday that it had found a small amount of genetically modified wheat in Alberta.
While genetically modified wheat is not approved for commercial use in Canada, the same genetically modified trait has been approved in canola, corn and soybeans for over 20 years.
The organization at that point narrowed down the manufacturer for the plant to be Monsanto, the agrochemical and biotechnology titan.
Southern Alberta wheat farmers are concerned after Japan, Canada's second-largest wheat customer, announced it would block all imports of the product after GMO plants were identified in the province.
Speaking at a news conference Friday afternoon, Deron Bilous, Minister of Trade and Economic Development, said the government is communicating with Japan to provide assurance that Canadian wheat is safe for the market.
The Alberta government said the dozen genetically modified red spring wheat plants were found last fall in a roadside ditch near Strathmore, east of Calgary.
The agency says it has done extensive scientific tests and it believes the genetically modified wheat is isolated to a site along a remote access road and that there's no safety risk.
Bilous won't speculate on if other countries that import Canadian wheat will follow Japan's example, but they are working to reassure those other global partners. On May 9, 2018, risk assessments examining potential implications of this wheat to food, animal feed and the environment were completed by Health Canada and CFIA. No GM wheat has ever been commercially grown or sold in any country in the world.
Canada is a major wheat-producing nation.
Both Bender and Dahl said there has been no indication other countries are contemplating similar moves.
Losing Japanese buyers, who pay a premium for high-quality, high-protein wheat, hurts Canada and creates opportunities for US and Australian wheat exporters, Dahl said.
The locations of the confined research field trials were approximately 300 kilometers or more away from where the GM wheat plants were found in Alberta, the CFIA said. "Without knowing the cause, contamination could happen again".
The CFIA said it will work with the landowner to monitor the area over the next three years to help prevent any genetically modified wheat from persisting.
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