The GM wheat has been engineered to use sunlight more efficiently and has boosted greenhouse yields by up to 40%. Researchers in Hertfordshire now want to see if they can replicate these gains in the field.
Several GM trials of crops have taken place in the UK over the past 20 years, often attracting protesters who have attempted to destroy the plants.
Even when trials managed to avoid disruption, they have not always been scientifically successful.
Last Autumn, the scientists at Rothamsted Research submitted an application to the Department of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) seeking permission to carry out small field trials at a secure site near Harpenden between 2017 and 2019.
After an independent risk assessment and a public consultation, that permission has now been granted. The researchers say they want to test newly developed wheat plants that have been modified to carry a gene from a wild relative called stiff brome.
But the planned planting is not without its critics.
Around 30 green organisations lodged objections to the plan, pointing to concerns about the potential for the GM wheat to escape into the wild, as has repeatedly happened in the US. Campaigners say they are “disappointed” that the trial is now going ahead.
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