Monsanto GMO wheat stored in Colorado through '11
Monsanto Co's unapproved, experimental genetically engineered wheat, which is feared to have potentially contaminated U.S. wheat supplies after it was found growing in an Oregon field this spring, was kept in a U.S. government storage facility until at least late 2011, according to documents obtained by Reuters.
The revelation that the seed for the controversial genetically engineered wheat was kept viable in a Colorado storage facility as recently as a year and a half ago comes as the U.S. government is investigating how the strain of experimental wheat wound up growing in an Oregon field this spring.
The probe by the U.S. Department of Agriculture includes an examination of the handling of the GMO wheat seed that Monsanto directed be sent to the government-controlled National Center for Genetic Resources Preservation in Fort Collins, Color., beginning in late 2004, according to Peter Bretting, who oversees the center for the USDA's Agricultural Research Service.
David Dierig, research leader at the National Center for Genetic Resources Preservation, also said the matter was "under active investigation."
The National Center uses high-tech methods to extend the viability of seeds for decades, much longer than their viability in conventional storage. The facility took in at least 43 physical containers of Monsanto's so-called "Roundup Ready" wheat in late 2004 and early 2005, the documents show. The material represented more than 1,000 different unique varieties or lines, according to the documents that Monsanto provided in a heavily redacted format.
The documents were made up of correspondence between Monsanto and the Colorado facility.
Monsanto was shutting down its work with Roundup Ready wheat, altered to tolerate treatments of Roundup herbicide, when it set up a contract dated November 2, 2004, for the resources preservation center to store its wheat seed. Monsanto said the seed was confirmed incinerated on Jan. 5, 2012.
"At our direction, the seed was destroyed ... as it was old material and we had no plans for its future use," said Monsanto spokesman Thomas Helscher, who provided Reuters with the supporting documents. Monsanto also archived some of the wheat at its facilities in St. Louis, Mo.
When asked if USDA had accounted for all the supplies sent to the Colorado facility, USDA spokesman Ed Curlett said the government probe is seeking an answer to that question.
A USDA spokesman on Friday said the government does believe that all the seed it received was incinerated, and that it cannot account for seed that might have been sent elsewhere.