Argentina has approved the first GMO wheat for cultivation. The decision is a bit surprising, because we’re used to the United States being a leader in approving bioengineered crops. But this time it isn’t us. Argentina is the global leader.
Bioceres SA developed HB4 as a drought-resistant wheat. Argentina hopes this will minimize crop losses and provide a more predictable crop yield. (I was hoping this was the much-anticipated gluten-free wheat.)
There’s a really big catch though: so far no other countries have approved the GMO wheat for importation. So even though Argentinian farmers can now grow the crop, they may not have anywhere to sell it.
Argentina sends most of its wheat to Brazil. In 2019, Argentina shipped 43 percent of its 11.3 million tonnes of wheat to Brazil. But so far there’s no word on Brazil approving the trait. In fact, Dave Green with Wheat Quality Council, a US trade group, told Reuters that our export customers aren’t interested in GMO wheat. So no one here is pushing for it.
It’ll be interesting to watch as this progresses. If Argentina is able to open some markets for this wheat, it could lead to wider adoption. And drought-resistance will become increasingly important as we battle the effects of climate change. So that could help spur adoption of these varieties.
And, of course, I still want to see gluten-free wheat. It will make a huge difference to people with gluten intolerance. And it might just be enough to really convince more consumers to give bioengineering a chance. I could totally see wheat with both drought-resistance and gluten-free traits gaining approval in the United States.
In the meantime, we’ll have to watch Argentina and this new GMO-wheat approval.