Commercial GM wheat 10 years away: report

LONDON Tue Jun 8, 2010 3:55pm EDT

Ears of wheat are pictured in a genetically modified organism (GMO) experimental area outside Zurich July 7, 2008. REUTERS/Christian Hartmann

Ears of wheat are pictured in a genetically modified organism (GMO) experimental area outside Zurich July 7, 2008.

Credit: Reuters/Christian Hartmann

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LONDON (Reuters) - Australia needs to focus on wheat breeding technologies including genetically modified wheat, Peter Reading, managing director of Australia's Grains Research and Development Corporation (GRDC) said on Tuesday.

But GM wheat was unlikely to be commercially available for another 10 years, he told the International Grains Council's conference.

Breeding technologies were key to addressing declining rates in Australia's wheat productivity growth, he said.

"It is very encouraging to see the life bioscience companies now investing in wheat biotechnologies but it is unlikely that GM wheat will be commercially available within the next 10 years," said Reading.

Australia, the world's fourth largest wheat exporter, has seen volatile swings in its production in recent years, mainly due to drought.

Output varied by over 10 million tonnes between the 2006/07 crop and the 2007/08 crop.

Wheat production is expected to move into higher rainfall regions over time, said Reading.

"Major emphasis will be on increasing water use efficiency," he added.

The Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics estimates the country's 2009/10 wheat production at 21.7 million tonnes, up from 20.9 million tonnes the previous year.

(Reporting by Sarah McFarlane; Editing by William Hardy)

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