UPDATE 1-Argentina becomes first country to authorize planting GMO wheat

(Adds comment from Bioceres source)

BUENOS AIRES, May 12 (Reuters) - Argentina, one of the largest wheat exporters, on Thursday became the first country in the world to authorize the planting of GMO wheat when it approved the national commercialization of the HB4 GMO wheat variety developed by Bioceres.

The company said, however, that the HB4 seed - which is more drought-tolerant and resistant to the herbicide glufosinate-ammonium - would not be available on the market just yet.

“We are going to continue producing under the preserved identity scheme that we currently have. We are not going to commercialize the seeds for the time being,” a source at the company told Reuters, without providing further details.

Argentina, where farmers are about to start sowing wheat for the 2022/23 season, was the first country to approve GMO wheat in 2020 on an experimental basis, followed in 2021 by Brazil, which is the largest buyer of Argentine wheat and gave a green light to GMO wheat flour.

The Ministry of Agriculture said in a statement on Thursday that INDEAR, which belongs to the Bioceres Group, is now authorized to commercialize the seed and the products and by-products derived from the so-called IND-ØØ412-7 wheat.

The release of GMO wheat in Argentina is generating concern among grain exporters, who fear that many customers will stop importing the Argentine grain, as the vast majority of countries in the world have not yet authorized GMO wheat or its derivatives.

“This regulation causes a huge commercial risk,” Argentina’s oilseeds and grains exporters chamber said on its Twitter account, adding that “the economic consequences of eventual market losses will fall on the ministry and the developing company”.

Argentina’s 2022/23 upcoming wheat harvest is expected to yield 19 million tonnes, according to the Rosario Grains Exchange. (Reporting by Maximilian Heath; Writing by Steven Grattan and Gabriel Araujo; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Sandra Maler)