Argentina rolls dice on GM wheat

STORY: Near the Argentine farm town of Pergamino, wheat fields are a common sight.

But there is one key, and controversial, difference here - some are genetically-modified to be more resistant to drought.

This field is one of more than a dozen test sites for the wheat strain called HB4.

Raquel Chan was part of the development team.

"Transgenics are not monsters, it’s an almost indistinguishable plant (wheat) from another one. The difference is that it endures better when it lacks water. This is something that could have happened in nature."

The HB4 strain is the first transgenic wheat to win regulatory approvals anywhere in the world.

It was developed by local firm Bioceres.

Supporters say it could help stop food crises by improving wheat yield, with Russia's invasion of major producer Ukraine throwing that argument into sharper focus.

Historic droughts in China, the U.S. and Europe have also raised fears about the future of food production.

But there are doubters, with some warning that genetically modified wheat could get into regular stockpiles of grain.

That raised the threat that importers could ban supply over fears of contamination.

Julio Calzada is chief economic analyst at the Rosario grains exchange.

"The main concern is the possibility that GM wheat and non-GM wheat could end up mixing. This could spark bans in international markets and Argentina needs these $4.5 billion dollars in exports. They're key at such a complicated moment for the country's macroeconomy."

Argentina has approved the strain for commercialization.

HB4 has also gained approvals in neighbouring Brazil, as well as Nigeria and Australia.