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Argentina: GMO wheat as a response to climatic extremes?

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Status: 06/30/2022 1:06 p.m.

Little rainfall, dry soil, withered crops – Argentine agriculture has repeatedly suffered from droughts in recent years. With the help of genetic engineering, plants could become more resistant.

By Anne Herrberg, ARD Studio South America

HB4 is the name of the technology developed by biochemist Raquel Chan in collaboration with Conicet, the Argentine public science agency, and the genetic engineering company Bioceres.

“We genetically modified wheat to make it more drought resistant. We inserted a sunflower gene into the wheat genome.” This makes the plant much more adaptable to drought, allowing for higher yields even in areas with less rainfall, Chan explains.

GM wheat as a solution

For Argentinian developers, GM wheat is a response to the food crisis. Their objective: to obtain authorization to import GMO wheat in as many countries as possible, explains Claudio Duran, director of strategy at Bioceres.

“We need to use science to ensure global food security. There are over 800 million people on Earth who don’t have enough to eat.” Many more would eat poorly, Duran said.

7th wheat exporter

Argentina is the world’s seventh largest exporter, with an average of 14 tonnes of wheat per year. In May, the government approved the cultivation and marketing of HB4 wheat – but it caused an uproar. Not only with small family businesses and organic farmers, but especially with large producers and exporters of conventional wheat.

It is not genetic manipulation that worries them, but possible penalties for former customers – for fear of contamination of conventional wheat by the genetic variety. Gustavo Idígoras, president of the Argentine Cereal Export Center, said a few weeks ago: “We say explicitly and categorically that we will not accept a single grain of HB4 wheat in shipments because it will meet with absolute rejection from the market. .

Many countries allow the import

But the resistance crumbles. The new GM wheat will initially only be planted by 250 approved companies. But Brazil, the largest buyer of Argentine wheat, has now approved the import and use of HB4 wheat flour, Colombia, Australia and New Zealand have followed suit and now the United States too. . A corresponding request for approval has also been submitted to the EU.

“Argentina is once again becoming a testing laboratory”, explains Cecilia Gargano, who also conducts research at the Conicet Institute: on the consequences of Argentine agriculture on the environment and the inhabitants of the cultivation areas. “The approval of GM soy almost 30 years ago established an agricultural model in Argentina based on monocultures and the massive use of pesticides,” Gargano explains. This has led to groundwater pollution, more deforestation, damage to health, displacement of the rural population and hence more poverty.

Bioceres, for example, advertises drought resistance worldwide, but likes to conceal the fact that resistance to the herbicide glufosinate-ammonium has also been built into HB4 wheat – which is considered more toxic than glyphosate, a controversial weedkiller.

Source www.tagesschau.de

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