Australia gives go-ahead for GM wheat testing

By Charlotte Eyre

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Maize, Food, Gm

The first ever Australian field trials of genetically modified
wheat will take place in Victoria this year, as the government aims
to fight possible food shortages caused by drought.

The trials were approved by the federal gene technology regulator, who granted "the limited and controlled release of GM wheat lines containing introduced genes for drought tolerance," according to a government report. In the last few years, changing weather conditions have threatened Australian stocks, and grain value is expected to undergo about a 21 per cent rise over last year to AUS$273 (€166) tonnes, according to the Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics (ABARE). "Already, the current drought in Australia has meant yield reductions of up to 50 per cent,"​ said keith Jones from Croplife International. "GM foods are exactly the technology that may be necessary to counter the effects of global warming." ​ The Victorian Department of Primary Industries will conduct the trials, evaluating the agronomic performance of the GM lines under rain-fed, drought prone conditions. The crops will be grown at two sites in the local government areas of Horsham and Mildura, Victoria, on a maximum total area of 0.315 hectares, according to the report. Scientists will trial up to 30 GM wheat lines, each containing genes for drought tolerance derived from maize, thale cross, moss or yeast. The GM debate has become more heated as of late, with many governments and wildlife organisations clashing over the use of GM food. In April, Croplife International accused the food industry of failing to adapt sustainable crop techniques to protect against the effects of climate change, and argued that GM foods may be the only way of sustaining future agriculture. Earlier this month Peter Mandelson added his voice to the pro-GM lobby, encouraging the EU to explore the options provided by GM trade. He warned that if Europe did not work through the issues raised by genetically modified food it will not be working in its own interests, and will open itself up to economic risks.

Related topics: Markets, Ingredients

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