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Syngenta Moves Closer to Launching GM Wheat

Leading agribusiness Syngenta could be set to introduce the world's first genetically modified wheat seed by early next decade, a move fully supported by American wheat industry organizations.

The Swiss company has already conducted several years of successful trials on its wheat seed, which has been developed to resist the increasingly troublesome disease fusarium.

Syngenta now says it needs to conduct more extensive field performance evaluations and technical success in field trials, emphasizing that it is still in early stages of development.

Indeed, the firm is still keeping quiet about its GM wheat, making no public announcements and speaking tentatively when it comes to possible commercialization dates.

"We have no timelines," said spokesperson Anne Burt. "It takes a long time from initial development to final registration, but the earliest possible date it could be ready is early next decade."

The company is currently talking to stakeholders to query market acceptance of the genetically modified wheat.

"We will go where the market is," Burt told

Indeed, Syngenta has good reason to be cautious. With wheat forming a major staple in the Western diet today, the introduction of a genetically modified version is likely to cause significant controversy and opposition.

In fact, two years ago, rival company Monsanto did not follow through on plans to introduce a GM wheat variety that was resistant to herbicide.

"Wheat is such an essential food product. Developing genetically modified traits does attract the attention of activists who are opposed to technology; and it is easy to critique because of the emotional values connected to it," said Lisa Dry, communications director of the Biotechnology Industry Organization's (BIO) food and agriculture department. BIO represents companies in the field of biotechnology, offering legal support to get FDA approval for new products. 

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