Sat, Jun 01, 2013 - Page 6 News List

Japan halts some US wheat imports

AFP, TOKYO

Japan has suspended imports of some US wheat after genetically engineered crops were found on an Oregon farm, a government official said yesterday.

Tokyo’s move came as the EU told its member states to test imports from the area, saying any genetically modified (GM) wheat would not be sold to consumers.

Japan’s farm ministry on Thursday canceled a bid for 25,000 tonnes of Western White, a soft white wheat produced in the US’ Pacific northwest, a ministry official said, in the wake of the discovery of the modified wheat.

“As long as the situation remains unchanged, we have no choice but to avoid bidding for the product,” the official said, adding that Tokyo’s annual imports of the brand total 800,000 tonnes.

“We are asking US authorities to disclose information related to the incident as quickly as possible,” the official said.

Other types of US wheat are not affected.

Japan imports about 5 million tonnes of wheat a year, 60 percent of which is from the US, making it one of the largest importers of the crop.

It does not allow GM wheat. Imports make up 90 percent of the wheat the country consumes.

The US Department of Agriculture announced the discovery of the modified wheat on Wednesday. No genetically engineered wheat has been approved in the US for commercial production.

The US department also said it was the same breed as a genetically modified herbicide-resistant wheat tested by seed giant Monsanto between 1998 and 2005, but never approved.

“We are taking this situation very seriously and have launched a formal investigation,” said Michael Firko, an official of the US farm department, which says the wheat is safe to eat.

In Brussels, the European Commission said on Thursday it has asked EU member states to check imports of wheat from the US which may be tainted with the genetically modified strain.

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