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