July 11, 2013 in Business

South Korea to resume buying Northwest wheat

From Staff And Wire Reports

A Washington Grain Commission spokesman said South Korean flour mills will resume buying soft white wheat from the Pacific Northwest, and Japan may be soon to follow.

Japan, Korea and Taiwan suspended imports of western white wheat from the Pacific Northwest after genetically modified wheat was discovered growing in an Eastern Oregon field in May.

Korea will continue testing wheat shipments for the presence of transgenic material but will not limit purchases of Pacific Northwest wheat, the Oregonian reported.

Washington Grain Commission communications director Scott Yates said growers are confident that Washington has not distributed genetically engineered wheat.

“We really feel that we’ve got to give the customers what they want, and they don’t want genetically engineered wheat,” Yates said.

Taiwan resumed purchases earlier, the Oregonian reported. Yates said Japan may be soon to follow, pending continued tests of the wheat.

Korea and Japan use wheat from Oregon, Washington and Idaho to make noodles, sponge cakes and crackers but oppose importing genetically modified food.

Almost half of Washington exports of wheat are sent to Pacific Rim countries, where the demand for the “unique product” is high, Yates said. Reports indicated that other forms of wheat were inferior for making traditional Asian products, he added.

“It’s special stuff,” he said.

The U.S. Agriculture Department is investigating the discovery of the wheat, which is not approved for farming in the United States. The department has said it appears to be an isolated incident.

Agriculture Department officials have said the wheat is the same strain as a genetically modified wheat that was designed to be herbicide-resistant and was legally tested by seed giant Monsanto a decade ago but never approved.

Staff writer Kaitlin Gillespie and the Associated Press contributed to this report.

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