Japan offers plan to resume U.S. white wheat imports

by Ron Sterk
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KANSAS CITY — Japan’s Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries on June 2 approved a plan to resume imports of soft white winter wheat from the U.S. Pacific Northwest, after discovery of unapproved bioengineered wheat plants in an Oregon field in May brought shipments to a halt, but no specific timetable was offered.

Conditions of the plan called for continued investigation into the incident by the United States and sharing of additional information, according to a report in Oregon’s Capital Press.

Other conditions included the establishment of a testing method for the presence of bioengineered wheat and a meeting between MAFF and “relevant experts” in the area where the plants were discovered.

“After this has been done, export terms and an export inspection system must be set,” MAFF Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi said in Tokyo. “We will then consider the timing of purchase resumption.”

The MAFF indicated the testing method for bioengineered wheat provided by the U.S. Department of Agriculture still had to be validated by the Japanese ministry to see if the same results were obtained. The assessment of the testing method began May 30.

Mr. Hayashi said he received a letter from U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack on June 20 outlining the U.S. investigation, noting the plants were discovered in one field, that no other bioengineered wheat was found after extensive interviews, that no such wheat was found in commercial channels, and asking Japan to consider resuming importation of U.S. soft white wheat, according to the Capital Press report.

Trade reports also indicated the South Korea Flour Dealers Association said it would discuss later this week lifting its ban of imports of U.S. soft white wheat from the Pacific Northwest. South Korea’s food ministry broadened its testing to include foods from wheat flour as well as wheat cargoes but have not found any bioengineered wheat in more than 160 inspections, according to the trade. Testing would be ongoing, the trade said.

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