ROSARIO, ARGENTINA — Representatives of US Wheat Associates (USW) traveled to Argentina last week to learn more about Bioceres Crop Solutions’ HB4 wheat technology at the company’s headquarters in Rosario.

HB4 technology is the world’s first and only drought-tolerant technology for wheat and soybean crops, according to Bioceres. The technology has been approved in 10 countries — Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Colombia, Indonesia, New Zealand, Nigeria, Paraguay, South Africa and the United States — but only has been approved for commercialization and cultivation in Brazil and Argentina. The two countries account for 90% of South American wheat production.

Bioceres and HB4 underwent a voluntary consultation period with the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA). In June 2022, the FDA concluded its evaluation of HB4 and had no further questions regarding the genetically modified wheat’s safety. The FDA’s tacit approval allowed Bioceres to seek the US Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) approval for planting. The timeline for USDA’s determination of Bioceres’ application to allow cultivation of HB4 is unclear.

USW Chairman Michael Peters, a wheat grower from Oklahoma, said US growers are “very interested in learning more about the progress Bioceres is making with government approval applications for its drought-tolerant wheat trait.”

Most wheat in the United States is grown without irrigation, so drought is a major concern for farmers, Peters said. He said US wheat farmers who made the trip to Argentina told Bioceres they welcome this kind of investment in new technologies for wheat.

“At the same time, the United States is an important and reliable wheat export supplier and some of our customers have significant concerns about introducing genetically modified wheat into their markets,” Peters said. “That is why USW and the farmers who traveled to Argentina emphasized that quickly securing approval for the Bioceres wheat trait in important countries is very important.

“The US wheat industry supports technology like Bioceres HB4 wheat to address global food security needs and to ensure that customers continue to have access to the varieties they want. And we appreciate that we have had a productive dialogue with Bioceres that we know will continue.”

Martin Mariani, global seed and trait manager for Bioceres, said the meeting was productive and noted that “HB4 has been cleared for consumption (in the United States) and is in the process of being evaluated for crop approval. We are working to add more markets.”  

HB4 was developed over 18 years through a public-private collaboration between Bioceres and the National Council for Scientific and Technical Research of Argentina and the National University of Litoral.

The USW delegation also visited an HB4 wheat field near the town of Acevedo and stopped by the Rosario Stock Exchange before returning to the United States.