THE Australian Government’s Office of the Gene Technology Regulator (OGTR) has received a licence application from the CSIRO to conduct a field trial of GM bread and durum wheat with enhanced resistance to rust.
The trial is proposed to take place over five growing seasons up to 2023 at CSIRO’s Ginninderra site on Canberra’s outskirts, and at the Boorowa Experiment Station on the southwest slopes of NSW.
The proposal is to plant up to 40 square metres in total in each growing season, and the trial would be subject to control measures that restrict the spread and persistence of the GM plants and the introduced genetic material.
CSIRO said the project aimed to evaluate agronomic performance of the GM wheat lines under field conditions.
Material to be tested includes genes involved in stem rust disease resistance alone, and multi-pathogen resistance to stem rust, leaf rust, stripe rust and powdery mildew.
The bread wheat component is proposed to produce 30 categories, each with between one and eight disease-resistance genes selected from the eight stem rust genes and one multi-pathogen disease resistance gene.
CSIRO proposes to produce three categories of GM durum wheat, each of which will contain a single multi-pathogen resistance gene.
Each category is expected to create 20 lines, which will generate a total of 600 bread wheat lines and 60 durum lines.
CSIRO said the rust disease-resistance genes proposed for this application are sourced from bread wheat and other grass species.
In its application, CSIRO said the GM grain produced would not be used in human food or animal feed.
The OGTR is preparing a Risk Assessment and Risk Management Plan for the application, number DIR 162.
This is expected to be released for public comment and advice from experts, agencies and authorities in May 2018, and will allow at least 30 days for submission of comments.
The OGTR said GM bread wheat plants transformed with three of the constructs proposed for release have been previously approved for limited and controlled release into the Australian environment in 2017 under licence DIR 151, with no adverse effects reported.