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Brazil tests genetically modified wheat amid global supply shortage

The decision is the latest sign of growing international interest in drought-tolerant wheat, as more extreme conditions linked to climate change increase the risk of famine. all around the world.

Embrapa said the agency has partnered with the Argentine company Bioceres, which has successfully developed a variety genetically modified wheat Can withstand drought conditions. Australia and New Zealand last month approved the sale and use of foods containing the HB4 wheat variety by Bioceres.

Brazil mainly uses genetically modified seeds in the cultivation of soybeans and corn, two other staples of the country, but its use in wheat has been opposed by consumers on the grounds that Wheat is a product that people consume directly, instead of using it as animal feed.

According to Jorge Lemainski, Embrapa’s head of wheat research, the unit has been given the “green light” by Brazil’s biosafety agency CTNBio to grow wheat in experimental fields near Brasilia, in the Cerrado region. -located in the west-central part of the country-, where soybeans and corn are commonly grown. Mr. Lemainski said Embrapa will report in August on the development of the new variety.

Trial plantings began shortly after the outbreak of conflict in Ukraine, the world’s main grain exporter, sending wheat prices soaring to near-record levels. The government of President Jair Bolsonaro wants to reduce Brazil’s dependence on Argentine wheat imports and increase exports. Brazil is a major soybean exporter but a net importer of wheat. About 90% of the wheat produced in Brazil grows in the southern part of the country, where conditions are wetter. If wheat can be grown in the North, Brazil’s cereal production will grow strongly.

A recent survey found that more than 70% of consumers in Brazil confirmed to consume GM wheat. However, Mr. Lemainski said the commercial cultivation of any GM wheat requires a process of about four years to evaluate the test results and obtain regulatory approval.

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