Scientists apply for GM wheat trial in UK

Researchers have applied for a licence to carry out a trial of a genetically modified wheat crop in a small field in Hertfordshire.The GM wheat converts sunlight into chemical energy (photosynthesis) more efficiently, boosting growth.

A photograph showcasing scientists working in a wheat field, indicating their involvement and dedication to the GM wheat trial application in the UK.
Image by Hans from Pixabay

If the government grants permission, the experiment would potentially be the second ongoing field trial in the UK.

A go-ahead would indicate a softening in opposition to outdoor experiments to develop GM crops in Britain.

The researchers believe that the variety has potential to greatly increase crop yields. The purpose of the proposed trial is to evaluate the performance of the engineered plants in the field.

Campaign groups were concerned that genes would flow from the GM crops and enter neighbouring plants and so create “super weeds”.

As a result of public opposition to the technology at the time there were no outdoor trials of the technology between 2003 and 2010.


“I believe that there is less opposition to GM,” she told BBC News.

“I would like to think that it is to do with the fact there has been a great effort made by plant scientists to explain more fully and clearly the potential of GM plants to improve our future”.

Prof Raines says that outdoor field trials are essential if scientists are to to find new ways to boost food production.

Yields in wheat have not increased in the past 30 years using traditional breeding techniques, she says.


“There is now evidence that improving the efficiency of photosynthesis by genetic modification is one of the promising approaches to achieve higher wheat yield potential,” said Prof Raines.

In greenhouses the wheat yields increased by between 20% and 40%, according to Prof Raines.

Greenhouses provide the perfect conditions for plants and so yields are not expected to be as high in the field.

“These field trials are the only way to assess the viability of a solution that can bring economic benefits to the farmers, returns to the UK tax payer of the long-term investment in this research, benefits to the UK economy as a whole and the environment in general,” he said.

Peter Melchett,

policy director at the Soil Association, said: “We know there is no demand for GM wheat – even in the US, and certainly not in Europe or the UK.

“GM wheat has been available in the US for over 15 years but never commercialised because of strong opposition in the marketplace, from the people who buy wheat, particularly for bread. We think this work on GM wheat is completely irrelevant to actual farmers.”

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