Will Argentina be the first country approving a GMO wheat?

(Photo: Francisco Ayala and Martín Mariani Ventura in the presentation of the HB4 wheat in Pergamino)

Buenos Aires, November 16th. “We musn’t do what other countries have already done; we must do what no other country did” Self-confident and why not a little bit provoker, the CEO of Bioceres, Mr. Federico Trucco, challenged the audience in the formal presentacion of the HB4 Wheat, the transgenic wheat that added drought tolerance to glufosinate-ammonium herbicide tolerance.

The begininng of this development dates from middles ’90 when scientist Raquel Chan’s team identified a gene (HB4) that confers sunflowerseed a better performance under drought condition. In 2003, Bioceres reached an agreement with Conicet (the governmental Science and Technology Comission) to develop this finding in a commercial way. In 2007, HB4 was transferred to other crops like soybean, maize and wheat, and now only one formal step is missing to release this technology to the Argentinean farmers.

Mr. Trucco explained the three step desregulation process for a GMO crop in Argentina. HB4 wheat has already been approved by the SENASA (Food Quality and Health Service) and the Conabia (Biotechnology Advisor Comission), because there is not risk to the human health, animal health and the enviroment, and the characteristics of this wheat are the same of conventional ones.

But the third step is pending. The Ag-Industry Secretariat must issue about the impact of this wheat in the markets (domestic and foreign), before its release. “From a year and a half we are waiting for this decission”, Mr. Trucco expressed.

During the formal presentation in Pergamino City (Buenos Aries province), Mr. Pedro Vignau on behalf of the No-Till Farmers Association (AAPRESID) said that this association support the technology and its release to farmers.

In the same way, the Ag-Industry minister of the Buenos Aires province, Mr. Leonardo Sarquís, expressed the support of the local government to this technology.

Matias Ruffo, Manager Products and Technology from Bioceres, told to the audience about the advantages of HB4 wheat. This crop was developed by Trigall, a joint venture between Bioceres and the French breeding company Florimond Desprez. In the JV, this company contribute with the germplasm and Bioceres brings the HB4 technology.

Photo: the plot demonstration at the Bioceres I+D Center in Pergamino

“The great advantage is the fact that while in a drought condition, HB4 yields 25% more than conventional wheat, in a good wet condition, HB4 yields the same or even a little more than the conventionals”, Mr. Ruffo explained.

“The fact that HB4 technology no implies a yield penalty in good weather conditions is a real great advantage to farmers. This technology is something like an insurance for farmers”, Ruffo said in dialogue with www.eFarmNewsAr.com.

Francisco Ayala, wheat breeder from Bioceres, explained that HB4 gene moves up the bias of the crop reaction against drought condition. “If a conventional wheat crop close its stomata, stop the transpiration function and start the senescence process at a certain level, HB4 permits that the crop continues with its fisiological functions at a higher level. When rainfall restores the humidity in the soil, HB4 wheat accumulated more biomass than conventional ones and then it will bring more kilograms per hectare to farmers”, Ayala said asked by www.eFarmNewsAr.com.

On the other hand, Ruffo said that HB4 drought-tolerance technology is the most advanced one in the global des-regulatory process. The company is running this process in Brazil (a key market for Argentine wheat), Uruguay, Paraguay and the US, via the Food and Drug Administration.

Bioceres officials are confident in the acceptation of this GMO wheat by the chain supply. “We are talking about a gene that comes from other crop like the sunflower, which is part of our daily diet. This is an important fact in the acceptation of this technology”, Ruffo said.

In dialogue with www.eFarmNewsAr.com Mr. Trucco explained that they could supply HB4 wheat seeds to farmers in the next season 2019/20, if Government finally approves the trait. “Initially we have seed to plant 20,000 hectares next year. I hope Government authorities realize that HB4 is a milestone for the scientific sector in the country and for the food and agricultural chain”, he said.

Present at the field day, the chairman of the Seed Association, Mr. Alfredo Paseyro, compares this key decision with the release of Bt corn in the ’90. “In that moment, some people saw the same ‘problems’ that now, but time demostrated that was a strategic decision that created enormous benefits for farmers and consumers”, Paseyro opined.

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