BRAZIL- The National Biosafety Commission of Brazil’s Ministry of Science, Technology, and Innovation has approved the commercialization and cultivation of Bioceres’ HB4 Wheat in Brazil.

The National Biosafety Commission has been evaluating the safety of Bioceres HB4 wheat and has concluded that it is safe for cultivation and commercialization in the country. 

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. 

The levels of this protein naturally increase upon environmental stress, such as drought stress.

Additionally, the presence of this gene delays the process of senescence, giving the crops time to wait for the return of regular water availability. 

In 2020, Argentina approved the cultivation and consumption of HB4 wheat, and Brazil is now the second country to gain approval for GM wheat from regulatory agencies. 

Brazil plants 2 million to 3 million hectares of wheat annually. With Argentina, both countries account for 90% of South America’s wheat acreage.

Based on results from Argentina’s recent drought-affected crop, the HB4 technology proves to be a key tool in the adaptation of farming systems to a more extreme climate, having registered more than 40% yield increases in environments under severe water stress.

This move builds on Brazil’s previous approval for food and feed use of HB4 Wheat flour in November 2021 and clears the path for commercialization in Argentina through channels other than Bioceres’ identity-preserved HB4 Program.

Additionally, Bioceres noted that the approval also enables the acceleration of its collaboration with EMBRAPA (Brazil’s Agricultural Research Corporation) to develop subtropical wheat varieties to increase the supply of local materials in this geography. 

HB4 Wheat offers the potential for double cropping- rotating wheat with a summer legume- in regions currently limited by water availability, the company said.

This genetically modified wheat also is approved for food and feed use in the United States, Colombia, New Zealand, Australia, South Africa, and Nigeria, and for feed use in Indonesia. 

Success in the use of HB4 wheat also opens the door for the potential cultivation of drought-stricken countries like Somalia as it was created to tolerate drought. 

If more countries adopted the technology, they could move away from overreliance on exports which are subject to disruptions by events such as the Ukraine war. 

Bioceres has also had phenomenal success in other areas of genetic modification because of the wide range of applications of the HB4 gene. 

In 2021, the Canadian Health Agency and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency also approved the cultivation and consumption of HB4 soybean. 

Additionally, last year, HB4 soy cultivation gained approval in China- the world’s largest consumer of the crop.  

Today, HB4 Soy has approval for unrestricted growth and commercialization in the United States, Canada, Brazil, Argentina, and Paraguay, representing roughly 85% of the global soybean trade, according to the company’s website.

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