BUENOS AIRES (Reuters) – Argentina on Friday 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 export agriculture industry.

Bioceres’

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 tonnes 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 countries have yet 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 on Thursday.

Associations linked to the farm supply chain in Argentina warned in the statement that national and international companies are already requesting assurances that the wheat they purchase does not have genetic modifications – in addition to its derived flour.

“The damage that would occur to the Argentine wheat

Argentina has become the first country to approve the growth and consumption of genetically modified wheat, the country’s agriculture ministry announced Thursday.

The ministry’s scientific commission said in a statement released in Buenos Aires that it had approved a drought-resistant variety of wheat in the world’s fourth-largest exporter of the crop.

“This is the first approval in the world for drought-tolerant genetic transformation in wheat,” the National Commission for Science and Technology (CONICET) said in a statement.

However, experts expressed concern about the growth and marketing of genetically modified crops (GMOs), citing difficulties in marketing such produce to consumers concerned about their effect on health and the environment.

CONICET said the genetic modifications to Argentina’s wheat crop would have to be approved in Brazil, historically the country’s biggest export market, to be commercially viable.

Some 45 percent of Argentina’s wheat exports in 2019 went to Brazil.

Other key markets are Indonesia, Chile and Kenya.

Formal government approval is due to be published on Thursday or Friday in the official Gazette.

The drought-resistant HB4 wheat variety was developed by Argentine biotechnology company Bioceres, working with the National University and CONICET.

“Approval of our HB4 wheat in Argentina represents a groundbreaking milestone for the entire global value chain of this important crop, given the substantial yield increases and significant environmental benefits that our technology offers,” said Bioceres CEO Federico Trucco.

“Now we must go out into the world and convince people that this is super good and be able to generate markets for this wheat, which represents an evolutionary leap.”

The scientific commission of Argentina's agriculture ministry said it had approved a drought-resistant variety of wheat in the world's fourth-largest exporter of the crop The scientific commission of Argentina’s agriculture ministry said it had approved a drought-resistant variety of wheat in the world’s fourth-largest exporter of the crop Photo: AFP / Eitan ABRAMOVICH

Trucco admitted that winning approval from Brazil, the country’s key export market, could

BUENOS AIRES (Reuters) – Argentina tempted wary investors with a dollar-linked bond on Tuesday, issuing around $1.8 billion of the instrument it hopes will help bolster the peso amid a domestic currency crisis, stringent capital controls and tumbling foreign reserves.

FILE PHOTO: Argentine one hundred peso bills are displayed in this picture illustration taken September 3, 2019. REUTERS/Agustin Marcarian/Illustration

The bond is part of a series of measures by the government and the central bank to revive confidence in the peso and encourage local savings. Argentina restructured over $100 billion in foreign-currency debt in recent months.

The restructurings, including $65 billion in foreign-law debt, helped pull the grains-producing nation out of default, but its access to global markets is very restricted. A mission from the International Monetary Fund arrived in the country on Tuesday to start talks for a new deal.

“The government has to show a change of direction quickly,” said Federico Furiase, director of consultancy Eco Go, adding Argentina had “very little gasoline in terms of reserves.”

“The government is trying to buy some time but these are all patches that are unfortunately arriving late.”

Argentina has temporarily cut export taxes on industrial, mining and agricultural products to boost sales and international reserves.

The IMF team started meetings in Buenos Aires as the government seeks a new program to replace a failed $57 billion facility struck in 2018. An IMF official described the visit as being in “listening mode.”

“We have been very clear in this crisis that it is important to provide support to firms and more importantly, to workers,” IMF Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva told CNN Spanish in comments later shared by the government.

“So we are not coming with the idea of, ‘oh, well, let’s see how we can further

BUENOS AIRES (Reuters) – Argentina’s central bank said on Thursday that it would allow a managed float of the peso currency and abandon its current “uniform daily devaluation” strategy as it seeks to adapt its monetary policy amid sharpening economic turmoil.

The move comes with the gap between the official exchange rate and the rate quoted in the country’s informal currency markets close to 93% due to the distrust of investors and strong black market demand for dollars.

Among a series of measures, the bank said it would block senior public officials from buying and accumulating foreign currency and would move to facilitate the purchase of Chinese yuan against Argentine pesos for foreign trade operations.

A central bank source said that the entity would offer trades at 76.95 pesos per dollar

at Friday’s open, around 0.91% weaker than the close on Thursday.
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Argentina’s government had recently tightened capital controls, which had sparked investor jitters and raised concerns about economic growth prospects. The controls were first imposed last year to stem a decline in foreign currency reserves.

A second bank source said that the plan for pricing on Friday was part of a move to “abandon uniform devaluations and introduce greater volatility”, adding that it meant that the daily price change would be less uniform going forward.

Argentina’s center-left Peronist government separately temporarily lowered taxes on exports of soy and other products on Thursday in a move to boost trade and help revive a flagging economy set to contract 12% this year.

The bank also increased the important overnight repo rate to 24%, from the current 19%.

(Reporting by Jorge Otaola; Writing by Dave Sherwood; Editing by Christopher Cushing)

Copyright 2020 Thomson Reuters.

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