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

(Bloomberg) — Pakistan plans to buy about 200,000 tons of wheat from Russia as part of Prime Minister Imran Khan’s bid to control inflation by increasing supplies of essential commodities.



Wheat is delivered to a grain elevator during harvest on a farm in Ust-Labinsk, Krasnodar, Russia.


© Bloomberg
Wheat is delivered to a grain elevator during harvest on a farm in Ust-Labinsk, Krasnodar, Russia.

Islamabad will soon sign a memorandum of understanding with Moscow for the supply of the grain on a government-to-government basis, Pakistan’s wheat commissioner, Imtiaz Ali Gopang, said by phone. The shipments from Russia are likely to arrive by December after the federal cabinet approves the proposal, he said.

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Russia’s agricultural agency said the country has already shipped 128,000 tons to Pakistan this season, which marks the first wheat exports there since 2014, according to United Nations trade data. Pakistan also plans to import 1.5 million tons of wheat through state-run Trading Corp. of Pakistan, while more than 1 million tons of the grain will be imported by the private sector, Gopang said.

Pakistan’s presence in the global market could further boost global wheat prices. On Wednesday, benchmark futures in Chicago reached a six-month high.

Pakistan Wheat Imports Set to Hit 12-Year High to Curb Prices

The Khan administration is trying to spur growth through monetary easing, incentives for construction and making efforts to control inflation by facilitating imports of essential items such as wheat and sugar. The nation’s food price inflation surged 12.9% from a year earlier in August.

The price of wheat flour will start coming down as four ships of wheat imported by Trading Corp. of Pakistan are seen arriving in October, Gopang said.

Pakistan, the world’s eighth-biggest wheat producer in 2019-20, has already imported about 430,000 tons so far this year to build strategic reserves of the grain and plug a 1.5-million-ton shortage, caused in part by