The history of genetically modified (GM) wheat dates back to 1997. On this page, we invite you to learn about Monsanto’s history in the development of GM wheat products.
Currently, GM wheat is not being grown on a commercial scale anywhere in the world. Researchers are growing GM wheat in small research trials, and Monsanto is one company with GM wheat in development. This research is in very early research phases and remains at least a decade away from commercial approval. Monsanto has two products in early-stage development—yield-and-stress wheat and herbicide-tolerant wheat. Monsanto is committed to ongoing dialogue with the wheat industry and farmers to support the successful introduction of new technologies thoughtfully.
We follow strict protocols to ensure the proper stewardship of these GM wheat trials.
Roundup Ready Wheat
As Monsanto established its seed business in the 1990s, the company looked at the prospect of developing Roundup Ready wheat, which would be tolerant to applications of Monsanto’s Roundup agricultural herbicides, with the active ingredient glyphosate. Monsanto worked with farmers and academics to set up the original Roundup Ready wheat seed trials throughout the United States from 1998 until the program was discontinued.
All field trials of regulated material in the United States are overseen by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), including shipment, storage, isolation, separation and monitoring requirements. Monsanto’s protocols for Roundup Ready wheat field trials met or exceeded the mandated USDA standards. The company complied with stewardship and regulatory requirements.
After consultation with the wheat value chain, Monsanto decided to defer its efforts to research and commercialize the original Roundup Ready wheat trait in May 2004. Monsanto immediately discontinued all programs including breeding, field research and product development programs. The process for closing out the Roundup Ready wheat program was rigorous, well-documented and audited.
Monsanto’s Re-entry into the Wheat Business
Monsanto re-entered the wheat business in 2009 with the purchase of WestBred, a seed company that specializes in wheat seed. Since then, Monsanto researchers have been applying their expertise in conventional and marker-assisted breeding to develop higher-yielding wheat varieties for U.S. farmers. Longer-term, Monsanto anticipates using its biotechnology tools to develop genetically modified wheat with such traits as drought tolerance and herbicide tolerance to help to enhance wheat productivity.
Overall, Monsanto continues to be encouraged by the support for new technologies in wheat, including biotechnology. As research efforts continue, we remain committed to working with the wheat industry and farmers to support the introduction of new technologies.
Timeline of Monsanto and wheat, Roundup Ready Wheat and GM wheat