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Seed-spill cause unsure: Monsanto

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PORTLAND, Ore. -- A genetically modified test strain of wheat that emerged to the surprise of an Oregon farmer last month was likely the result of an accident or deliberate mixing of seeds, the company that developed it said Wednesday.

Representatives for Monsanto Co. said during a call Wednesday the emergence of the genetically modified strain was an isolated occurrence. It has tested the original wheat stock and found it clean, the company said.

Sabotage is plausible, said Robb Fraley, Monsanto chief technology officer.

"We're considering all options and that's certainly one of the options," Fraley said.

Fraley said the company has a test it has shared with other countries that could "fingerprint" the exact variety of wheat that carried the gene and it's awaiting samples from the U.S. Department of Agriculture or the Oregon farmer to test for the exact variety that emerged.

The USDA has said the Oregon wheat is safe to eat and there is no evidence modified wheat entered the marketplace. No genetically engineered wheat has been approved for U.S. farming.

Consumers' unease with genetically modified crops, particularly those in Europe and Asia, led St. Louis-based Monsanto to end the testing of modified wheat in 2005.

Many countries will not accept imports of genetically modified foods, and the United States exports about half of its wheat crop. Since the discovery of the genetically modified wheat in Oregon, Japan -- one of the largest export markets for U.S. wheat growers -- suspended some imports. South Korea said it would increase its inspections of U.S. wheat imports.

-- The Associated Press

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition June 8, 2013 B9

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