In its Statement, the SECB concludes that the planned experimental release poses a negligible risk to humans, animals and the environment and can therefore be approved.
The genetically modified maize strains to be released are partially resistant to fungal leaf blight and corn smut. The pathogens of both these diseases occur in Switzerland and can result in a loss of yield.
The resistance comes from the wheat-derived gene Lr34, which has been used in wheat production for a century and confers partial, non-race-specific resistance to various fungal diseases.
The aim of the trial is to investigate whether the resistance to leaf blight and corn smut observed in the greenhouse and vegetation hall – and hence the effectiveness of the Lr34 gene – also applies in field conditions. Agronomic parameters such as plant growth and yield will also be investigated.
In addition, a biosafety project will be carried out and possible effects on mycorrhizal fungi, as an example of a non-target organism, will be examined.
The field trials will take place between 2020 and 2023 at the Protected Site, a secure experimental field at Agroscope's Reckenholz site. The security measures in place include perimeter fencing, round-the-clock guarding and surveillance of the experimental field and an alarm system. These measures will protect the experiment from vandalism and prevent the removal of plant matter. Further measures to minimise outcrossing are the use of coated seed and either isolation distances from other, conventional maize fields or removal of the male inflorescences (tassels).
In its Statement, the SECB focused mainly on the two options for minimising unwanted outcrossing and pollination in cultivated maize fields and came to the conclusion that both variants are fit for purpose. It approved the experimental release.
SECB Statement of 2 April 2019 (in German)
The application was published in the Federal Gazette on 29 January 2019 and approved by the Federal Office for the Environment in a decree dated of 2 March 2019.
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Last edition: 05.03.2020
Swiss Expert Committee for Biosafety (SECB)
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