PARAGUAY- The Instituto de Biotecnologia Agricola (INBIO) has announced the approval of HB4 wheat, setting the stage for future production and commercialization of the genetically modified wheat variety in Paraguay. 

HB4 wheat is a type of wheat that has been genetically modified by introducing sunflower genes to improve crop productivity. The HB4 gene encodes the protein HAHB4 (Helianthus Annuus Homeobox-4), which binds to specific sequences of wheat DNA and regulates the expression of certain genes. 

According to the producer of the innovative GM wheat variety Bioceres, the HB4 drought-tolerance technology increases wheat yields by an average of 20% in water-limited conditions.

In addition to drought tolerance, HB4 wheat is also tolerant to the herbicide glufosinate ammonium, a technology that has been used safely for 20 years.

According to INBIO, as a genetically modified crop, HB4 wheat underwent a thorough risk assessment process for commercial planting in Paraguay, including environmental, human, and animal nutrition, and safety aspects. 

The approval process involves a comparison with its non-genetically modified counterpart, and the results submitted to various regulatory agencies. 

During the evaluation process, the required additional studies were carried out, and all of them confirmed the safety of HB4 wheat. 

This approval is seemingly a natural progression for the South American country as studies by INBIO details both economic and social benefits, as well as the environmental benefits of production with genetically modified crops, showing that using these type of crops contribute to the sustainability of agricultural production.

HB4 wheat was first approved for cultivation and consumption in Argentina in May 2022. In March this year, Brazil became the second country to gain approval for GM wheat from regulatory agencies. 

Additionally, regulatory bodies in the United States, Australia and New Zealand, Nigeria, and Colombia have presented that they have no questions regarding the safety of drought-tolerant HB4 wheat, although cultivation and commercialization of the wheat variety are pending approval. 

According to the United States Food and Drug Administration, the increasing global demand for wheat demands that there are more sustainable ways to produce more wheat in sustainable ways, and transgenic crops could be the best way to go about it. 

A trait such as drought tolerance in wheat could help wheat growers in increasingly arid regions be more productive and ease food security concerns.

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