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Bayer CropScience focuses on wheat


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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