June 27 (UPI) -- The U.S. Department of Agriculture has identified the genetically modified, unapproved wheat found growing wild in Washington state as a grain created by Monsanto.
The wheat was genetically engineered to withstand the company's Roundup herbicide, which would allow farmers to better kill other plants without affecting their wheat crops. It's called Roundup Ready wheat.
The company also makes Roundup Ready corn and soybeans, both of which are approved by the USDA.
The wheat, also called MON 71800, does not have USDA approval -- no genetically engineered wheat is approved from commercial use anywhere in the world.
Monsanto petitioned for its approval in 2002 and 2004, but chose to withdraw its applications before the agency issued a ruling, said Rick Coker, a USDA spokesman.
However, the Food and Drug Administration completed a "voluntary consultation" of MON 71800 in 2004, "concluding that this GE wheat is as safe as food and feed as non-GE wheat currently on the market," Coker said.
The Roundup Ready wheat was found growing wild in eastern Washington state in early June in an area that was "possibly on the site of a former [Monsanto] field trial," Charla Lord, a spokeswoman for Bayer, which recently purchased Monsanto, said shortly after it was found.
The USDA still is reviewing the situation, and anticipates the investigation will take between six and nine months, Coker said.
Bayer had no comment on the USDA's most recent findings. Shortly after the USDA announced the discovery June 7, the company issued the statement, "We are cooperating with USDA to gather more information and facts as the agency reviews the situation. We will provide more information when possible."