AUSTRALIA/NEW ZEALAND – Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) has permitted the entry of foods derived from HB4 wheat into the market as imported food products, following extensive safety assessment.

In their approval report FSANZ stated that no public health and safety concerns were identified, and that food derived from wheat line IND-00412-7 is considered to be as safe for human consumption as food derived from conventional non-GM wheat cultivars.

The wheat line IND-00412-7 has been genetically modified for tolerance to drought and to the herbicide glufosinate.

Trigall Genetics, an Uruguay-based joint venture between Bioceres Crop Solutions and Florimond Desprez, declared in their application to FSANZ that the drought tolerance trait is conferred by the expression of the novel transcription factor HaHB4 encoded by the HaHB4 gene from sunflower.

On the other hand, tolerance to glufosinate ammonium is attained by the expression of the enzyme phophinothricin acetyltransferase (PAT).

FSANZ has previously assessed PAT, but this is their first time assessing the HaHB4 protein. Pre-market approval is necessary before GM foods can enter the Australian and New Zealand food supply. GM foods are only approved after a comprehensive pre-market safety assessment.

The approval allows the food derived from wheat line IND-00412-7, which includes flour, bread, pasta, biscuits, and other baked products, to be sold and used for food.

Labeling requirements as dictated by the Australia New Zealand Food Standards Code will be applied to these products.

FSANZ requires food to be labelled as ‘genetically modified’ where novel DNA and/or novel protein remains present in the final food.

The labelling requirement will not however apply to highly refined foods made from this wheat, for example, ethanol, if they do not contain novel DNA or novel protein.

FSANZ called for submissions on the proposed draft variation on 6 December 2021 and gave an 8-week allowance for submission of comments.  A total of eight submissions were received.

New Zealand Food Safety (NZFS) and Murdoch University stated their agreement with FSANZ’s safety assessment conclusions that no potential public health and safety concerns have been identified and that food from wheat line IND-00412-7 is safe for human consumption.

Murdoch University also noted that wheat line IND-00412-7 demonstrates up to a 20% increase in yield under circumstances of water stress, which is of great interest to countries where drought is a limiting factor for agricultural production.

The GPSA stated that GM plant varieties such as wheat line IND-00412-7 have the potential to increase sustainability and profitability by reducing impacts from environmental stressors, as well as increasing yield potential and nutritional value.

New Zealand and Australia join Brazil and Argentina who had earlier approved the utilization of the wheat. Brazil approved its importation last year November.

In October 2020, Argentina granted approval of HB4 wheat for growth and consumption, making it the first country in the world to do so. The commercialization of HB4 wheat in Argentina was however subject to Brazilian approval, as Brazil is the main export market for Argentinean wheat production.

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