GMO COMPASS - Information on genetically modified organisms
  Aug 28, 2014 | 3:05 pm
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Crops

Wheat


Right now, no genetically modified wheat is being grown anywhere in the world. Plans to introduce GM wheat in North America were abandoned in 2004. Nevertheless, scientists are still exploring ways of improving wheat using genetic engineering.

In 2002, Monsanto, the world's leading agro-biotech enterprise, submitted an application to the United States and Canada for the approval of an herbicide resistant, genetically modified wheat cultivar. Two years later, Monsanto withdrew its application.

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Still no genetically modified wheat: Wheat is hugely important in the world's food supply. About 600 million tonnes of wheat are produced each year. That adds up to 90 kg for every person on earth.

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Fungal diseases in wheat: Fusarium infection doesn't only cause yield losses. It also contaminates grains with dangerous mycotoxins.

 

Many farmers feared that their products would be rejected by markets in Europe and Asia, where views toward GMOs are more skeptical. Concerns about export markets overpowered potential advantages offered by herbicide resistance. According to Monsanto, herbicide resistant wheat would lead to reductions in herbicide use corresponding to reduced expenditures on machines and labor. Monsanto predicted profit increases of five to fifteen percent.

Poisonous Fusarium infestations: New solutions with genetic engineering?

Septoria, Fusarium, and common bunt are fungal diseases that often cause problems for wheat growers. These fungal diseases can spread rapidly when conditions are mild and moist.

One disease that poses particularly serious problems is Fusarium. Infected ears will either fail to produce grains or will produce grains that are small and stunted. Problems with Fusarium, however, don’t end there. A crop affected by Fusarium infection can also contain dangerous substances that can impact the health of humans and livestock.

Certain strains of Fusarium produce mycotoxins. Mycotoxins is a general term for poisonous compounds produced by fungi, which are thought to protect germinating spores from microbial infection. Mycotoxins remain in food during processing and can lead to chronic and acute diseases. In high concentrations, they can cause nausea and vomiting. Certain Fusarium toxins are implicated in cancer and have been known to affect hormonal balances.

Right now, there is no efficient way of stopping Fusarium infection. Although management strategies using resistant cultivars, crop rotation, and chemical fungicides are helpful, they are still not enough to stop the disease when conditions are conducive to infection. Fusarium is responsible for yield losses and mycotoxin contamination in wheat grown around the world.

Genetic engineering opens the door to new strategies for managing Fusarium and other fungal diseases. Scientists are currently developing genetic approaches to conferring resistance to fungal diseases and are testing their effectiveness on wheat. Field trials are underway in many countries, including countries in Europe, to find out if experimental GM wheat plants are actually resistant to fungal infection and thereby produce grains won’t be laden with dangerous mycotoxins.

 


An EU Research Project

What are the risks of growing GM crops?

What are the benefits?

Numerous studies have addressed the potential impacts of genetically modified (GM) plants. Yet the existing evidence on the effects of GM plants is often contradictory and the quality of scientific research varies widely.

Therefore, the GRACE project will establish new tools for assessing the quality of existing studies and will conduct comprehensive reviews to identify health, environmental and socio-economic impacts of GM plants.

More information

Environmental Safety: Crop Specific Information
Maize
Potato
Sugar beet
Rapeseed/Canola
Cotton
Soybean
Wheat
Rice
December 4, 2008 [nach oben springen]

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