June 23, 2011


UK institute to conduct GM wheat trial



The Rothamsted Research institute has submitted an application to carry out a field scale trial of genetically modified (GM) wheat resistant to aphids.


Two new genes have been inserted into the wheat plants, which lead to the production of a chemical known to repel aphids and to attract their natural enemies to the plant.


The trial will take place at Rothamsted's experimental farm at Harpenden, Hertfordshire, in an area covering 6,400 square meters, of which just 288 square meters will be planted with GM wheat.


The two new genes are synthetic, which means they have been chemically synthesized to function like wheat genes, Rothamsted explained in its applications to the Government's Advisory Committee on Releases to the Environment (ACRE).


Rothamsted intends to commence the field trial next March or April 2012, with the plants harvested in August or September, and repeat the process in 2013.


"Genetic improvement, enabling the plants to be more resistant to aphid infestation, is one important way to reduce unsustainable crops losses and reliance on pesticides. Genetic modification is one highly effective breeding technology that can make crops resistant to pests," said National Farmers Union chief science and regulatory affairs adviser Dr Helen Ferrier.


ACRE is expected to issue its advice to Ministers within the next six months. It will take into account responses to a 60-day public consultation on the application launched simultaneously with the application.


The trial is the first field scale trial of GM wheat since the 1990s.