USDA: Ore. wheat appears to be isolated

The Agriculture Department said it has no indications that genetically modified wheat found in Oregon last month has spread beyond the field in which it was found.

No genetically engineered wheat has been approved for U.S. farming, and the department is investigating how the engineered wheat got in the field.

Matt Paul, the agency’s spokesman, said in a statement Friday that the department “has neither found nor been informed of anything that would indicate that this incident amounts to more than a single isolated incident in a single field on a single farm.”

Agriculture 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.

Japan, Korea and Taiwan have suspended imports of western white wheat from the Pacific Northwest as the Agriculture Department investigates.

Name that storm

— Associated Press

Europeans reach deal
to open U.S. talks

The European Union overcame French objections on Friday to come to agreement on a free trade negotiating mandate for sweeping talks with the United States that President Obama wants to officially open next week.

Under Friday’s deal, trade ministers at a meeting in Luxembourg agreed to France’s demand to keep its movie and television industry out of the hotly anticipated transatlantic talks. But they agreed it could be debate d at a later time, meaning the divisive issue could resurface.

The outcome should allow Obama and his E.U. counterparts to announce the start of negotiations for a deal expected to provide a big boost to growth and jobs by eliminating tariffs and other barriers that have long plagued economic relations. A free trade pact would create a market with common standards and regulations across countries that together account for nearly half the global economy.

An E.U.-commissioned study shows that a trade pact could boost the 27-country bloc’s economic output by $159 billion a year and the U.S. economy’s by $127 billion.

— Associated Press

Also in Business

l  Yoga gear maker Lululemon wants a “head boss person” who can communicate in Sanskrit, hold a headstand for at least 10 minutes and is ready to break the rules, the Vancouver-based company said Friday in a tongue-in-cheek job ad. “You report to no one, you are the CEO (duh),” the ad on the company’s Web site says. Lululemon has also taken the more traditional route of hiring an executive search firm to find a replacement for Christine Day, who said Monday that she would step down as chief executive after a replacement is found.

l  Europe’s latest passenger jet, the Airbus A350, made its maiden flight Friday, opening a new front in a battle with U.S. rival Boeing, and sales chief John Leahy declared the plane so quiet that residents near airports won’t even notice it. The lightweight carbon-plastic jet flew over the Airbus plant in Toulouse, France, to salute production workers before wrapping up a four-hour inaugural flight that Airbus officials said achieved more than expected. The sortie capped eight years of designing and development costing an estimated $15 billion.

l  Smithfield Foods’ profit sank nearly 63 percent in the fourth quarter as feed costs rose, hog prices fell and its exports to China and Russia declined. The results reported Friday come only weeks after the pork producer agreed to a $4.72 billion takeover offer from the majority shareholder in China’s largest meat processor. The Smithfield, Va.-based company, whose brands include Armour, Farmland and its namesake, said Friday that it earned $29.7 million, or 21 cents per share, for the period ended April 28. That’s down from $79.5 million, or 49 cents per share, a year ago, when its results included a $16.8 million benefit from insurance reimbursements.

l  A rise in food and gas costs drove a measure of wholesale prices up sharply in May. But outside those volatile categories, inflation was mild. The Labor Department said Friday that the producer price index rose 0.5 percent in May from April. Gas prices rose 1.5 percent last month, and food costs increased 0.6 percent. Core prices, which exclude the food and energy, rose just 0.1 percent.

l  Whole Foods has announced that the organic grocery chain has revised its employee language policy following the suspension of two Spanish-speaking Albuquerque employees who complained about being told they couldn’t speak Spanish to each other while on the job. Whole Foods Market Co-CEO Walter Robb said in a blog post Friday that the recent “unfortunate incident” in Albuquerque allowed the Austin-based company to revise a policy that “does not reflect and is not in alignment with the spirit of this company.” The new policy asks employees to “be inclusive and respectful” when speaking other languages on the job.

— From news services

Coming Next Week

l  In Sunday Business: Encryption — the high cost of real online privacy.

l  Monday: The National Association of Home Builders releases its housing market index for June.