SECB statement on the experimental release of genetically modified winter wheat with potential for increased yield

The SECB has issued a Statement on this field trial. It concluded unanimously that the experimental release applied for poses a negligible risk to humans and the environment, and can therefore be approved.

The genetically altered wheat strains contain a gene for a sucrose transporter, the barley-derived HvSUT gene. This sucrose transporter is able to transport more sucrose to the grains, leading to increased yield. The experimental release will be carried out in 2016–2022 on the protected site at Agroscope Reckenholz.

Yield increases in wheat rose in a linear fashion for decades; however, they stagnated from the mid-1990s in Switzerland and other European countries. New possibilities have therefore been investigated to further increase yield potential. One such possibility is the expression of an additional sucrose transporter.

The field trials will investigate whether the increase in yield as observed in the greenhouse can also be confirmed in the field. Possible implications for non-target organisms will also be observed. The genetically modified wheat strain will also be tested for its vulnerability to pathogens and pests.

Various security measures are in place for these trials. Fencing off the trial fields at the protected site is an important measure to counter vandalism and the removal of plant matter. Further measures include coated seed and isolation distances for wheat, rye and triticale cultures. The trial fields are further protected from birds eating the grains by covering the wheat with a net or fleece after sowing and before harvest.

In its statement the SECB notes the isolation distance, which it considers should be 50 m from any fields planted with wheat, rye and triticale. It also suggested crossing-out experiments in order to gain knowledge of local conditions.

SECB Statement of 7 July 2016 (in German)

The application was published on 14 June 2016 in the Federal Law Gazette and approved, with various conditions, by decree from the Federal Office for the Environment on 27 October 2016.

Information from the FOEN on the application

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Last edition: 04.01.2021