Australian State Moves Forward with Biotech Wheat

State of Victoria applies to conduct trial of varieties that stand up to drought.

The government in the Australian state of Victory has taken action against the long-term drought by applying to conduct trials on drought-tolerant genetically modified wheat. If the application is granted by the Office of the Gene Technology Regulator (OGTR), it will be the first GM wheat trial in the state, and only the seventh time in the country.

Up to 30 GM lines would be grown in trial plots up to 0.225 hectares under the plan, looking at traits showing promise at creating hardier wheat cultivars. Already, significant progress is being made in non-GM wheat breeding on drought resistant varieties, using traits taken from tough relatives of wheat such as goat grass, a native of the Middle East.

The GM breeding process could potentially speed up the development of a drought resistant or drought tolerant wheat. The trials will be conducted in the north-west of the state at Horsham and Mildura.

However, the Government's decision to plant small-scale trials does not represent an end to its moratoria on the commercial release of GM products, which will still run until 2008, with exceptions only for small-scale trials.

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