International Agriculture News

Japan resumes Canadian wheat purchases

Japan halted purchases of Canadian wheat after a few “rogue” genetically modified wheat plants were found along a remote access road in southern Alberta. Photo: IanChrisGraham/iStock/Getty Images

Japan has resumed purchases of Canadian wheat after testing found no genetically modified wheat in imports following the discovery of a few GM wheat plants in Alberta last summer.

The decision “proves that Canada’s science-based regulatory system works,” said the general manager of the Alberta Wheat Commission.

“Not only does Canada’s grain-handling system employ some of the most rigorous quality control protocols in the world, but we also prioritize transparency with our customers,” said Tom Steve. “Japan is a highly valued customer of Canada and we are pleased to see that they have reaffirmed their confidence in our system and have resumed normal trade.”

Japan’s Agriculture Ministry said it was seeking to buy 62,957 tonnes of Canada Western Red Spring after suspending wheat purchases in June. Japan is one of the largest buyers of Canadian wheat, purchasing 1.5 million to two million tonnes annually. South Korea, a much smaller buyer, also suspended purchases of Canadian wheat, but lifted that suspension a little more than a week after imposing it.

The origin of the GM wheat, found along an oil well access road in southern Alberta, is a mystery. It contained a known trait but one that was dropped from testing nearly 20 years ago and the plants were found hundreds of kilometres from the nearest test site. When the Canadian Food Inspection Agency did its DNA analysis, it discovered the wheat didn’t match any of the 450 varieties registered in Canada. The agency has concluded the rogue GM plants were an isolated incident and the Canadian Grain Commission has found no evidence that unapproved wheat ever entered export cargoes.

Japan’s resumption of wheat purchases “marks an end to all international trade actions” arising from the GM wheat discovery, the federal government said.

Cereals Canada praised the response of Ottawa and industry reps in responding to the incident, which included sending federal officials to Japan and numerous meetings in both countries.

“Almost all organizations and companies have come together to present a unified single Canadian industry message,” said Cam Dahl, the farm group’s president. “As a united industry we are able to work with the government and our customers to help maintain our reputation as a reliable supplier.”