Plans for field tests with GMO wheat in Australia

06-07 | |
Bioceres is seeking planting approvals for GMO wheat field tests in Australia next year. - Photo: David Maunsell
Bioceres is seeking planting approvals for GMO wheat field tests in Australia next year. - Photo: David Maunsell

Argentina’s Bioceres Crop Solutions has confirmed its plans to carry out field tests with genetically modified drought resistant wheat in Australia. Chief Executive Federico Trucco told Reuters it is seeking planting approvals next year.

Australia approved the consumption of food derived from Bioceres’ GMO wheat in May this year. The Argentine company also holds approval from food-safety regulators in Argentina, Brazil and New Zealand. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has determined that its HB4 wheat variety is safe to eat as well. Bioceres is now awaiting approval from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

So far, only Argentina has authorised planting and commercially growing the company’s HB4 wheat. Brazil is the only other country that is testing a variety of the drought resistant, genetically modified wheat of Bioceres.

Field tests in Brazil

Brazilian research agency Embrapa received regulatory approval from Brazil’s biosecurity agency CTNBio in March. It has started planting wheat on test fields in the dry Centre West Cerrado region, where farmers usually plant soy and corn.

Brazil can increase the amount of wheat grown when it would be allowed to use the GMO wheat in dry regions. The country would become less dependent on import of wheat from Argentina. But potential commercial planting of GMO wheat is still four years away, according to Embrapa.

Growing interest in HB4 wheat

The interest in planting HB4 wheat is increasing lately. According to Bioceres, consumers and farmers could be warming to eating and growing wheat that has been genetically modified. More extreme weather patterns and the war in Ukraine are currently drivers of the interest in HB4.

Other major grain crops, soy and corn, are already mainly cultivated with genetically modified seeds. Some consumers have opposed use of the technology in wheat in the past, because it is consumed directly by people rather than fed to livestock.

Groeneveld
René Groeneveld Correspondent for Australia
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