• By The Financial District

ARGENTINA OKAYS CULTIVATION OF DROUGHT-RESISTANT GMO WHEAT

Argentina formally became the first country in the world to approve the use of drought-resistant genetically modified (GMO) wheat, prompting fierce criticism by the country’s massive agricultural export industry.

Bioceres' BIOX.BA HB4 wheat is resistant to drought and tolerates the herbicide glufosinate sodium, a combination the company says can help boost yields on dry years. But the government said the product cannot be sold before Brazil, Argentina's biggest wheat buyer, approves its importation. Last year, 45% of the 11.3 million tons of wheat exported by Argentina went to neighboring Brazil, which has not commented on the prospects of it approving the purchase of HB4 wheat.


Many farm groups in Argentina objected to the government’s approval of the product over concerns it could prove a stigma for exporters. “Not only are wheat and flour exports put at risk, but also pellets, starch, gluten, baked goods, noodles and all the products (that require additional processing),” said a statement signed by regional farmers’ associations, traders, and the influential Chamber of Cereal Exporters (CEC.)


No other country has approved the importation of GMO wheat, leaving Argentine farmers with little incentive to plant it. Environmental groups have warned that not enough is yet known about GMO crops, treated with weed killers like glufosinate sodium, for them to be safely consumed by humans. A green light from Brazil would not trigger Bioceres to immediately commercially launch the new technology before getting approval from other markets, CEO Federico Trucco told Reuters.