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Bayer CropScience focuses on wheat

Gil Gullickson 12/03/2010 @ 6:35pm Crops Technology Editor for Successful Farming magazine/Agriculture.com

Collaboration with Australian firm aims at high-yielding wheat varieties, traits



Bayer CropScience has entered the wheat business with its collaboration with the Australian research institute CSIRO. This collaboration is developing GMO (genetically modified organism) and non-GMO traits and breeding improved wheat varieties.

Initially, the wheat industry resisted genetically modified traits, fearing a consumer backlash. Marketability was a factor in Monsanto abandoning its herbicide-tolerant Roundup Ready wheat in 2004.

Recently, though, wheat growers in the U.S., Canada, and Australia have wondered if the industry has missed the boat, Wheat farmers who also grew corn saw yields and efficiency increase using transgenic technology, says Rudiger Scheitza, head of global portfolio management for Bayer CropScience.  Meanwhile, wheat yields haven’t matched those gains made by corn. In the past couple years, Bayer CropScience, Monsanto, and Syngenta have all entered wheat technology arrangements.

Bayer is developing transgenic and non-transgenic technology like stress tolerance and nutrient use efficiency traits. It will be a while, though, before you see any wheat products from this effort appear on the market. A trait discovered today likely won’t hit the market for about 10 years.

Scheitza expects resistance from some parties regarding transgenic wheat technology. Since much wheat goes into bread and other foods, it directly contacts more humans than does corn and soybeans.

“A bigger portion of the food is for humans,” says Scheitza. “There will be more resistance, for sure. It may take more years before it gains acceptance.”

Conversely, though, it will take tools including transgenic technology to meet increasing worldwide food demand. The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization estimates 70% more food will have to be produced in 2050 than today. Transgenic technology is a tool to help meet this level, says Scheitza.

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