Argentina gives OK to drought-resistant GMO wheat

Argentina is the world’s fourth largest exporter of wheat, but farmers fear the approval of GMO crops could hamper sales and tarnish its reputation. (AFP)
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Updated 10 October 2020

Argentina gives OK to drought-resistant GMO wheat

  • Last year, 45 percent of the 11.3 million tons of wheat exported by Argentina went to neighboring Brazil

BUENOS AIRES: Argentina has become the first country in the world to approve the use of drought-resistant genetically modified (GMO) wheat, prompting fierce criticism by the country’s massive export agriculture industry.

Bioceres’ HB4 wheat is resistant to drought and tolerates the herbicide glufosinate sodium, a combination the company says can help boost yields on dry years. But the government said the product cannot be sold before Brazil, Argentina’s biggest wheat buyer, approves its importation.

Last year, 45 percent of the 11.3 million tons of wheat exported by Argentina went to neighboring Brazil, which has not commented on the prospects of it approving the purchase of HB4 wheat.

Many farm groups in Argentina objected to the government’s approval of the product, over concerns it could prove a stigma for exporters.

“Not only are wheat and flour exports put at risk, but also pellets, starch, gluten, baked goods, noodles and all the products (that require additional processing),” said a statement signed by regional farmers’ associations, traders, and the influential Chamber of Cereal Exporters (CEC).

No other countries have yet approved the importation of GMO wheat, leaving Argentine farmers with little incentive to plant it. Environmental groups have warned that not enough is yet known about GMO crops, treated with weed killers like glufosinate sodium, for them to be safely consumed by humans.

A green light from Brazil would not trigger Bioceres to launch the new technology before getting approval from other markets, CEO Federico Trucco told Reuters.

Argentine farming associations warned national and international companies were already requesting assurances the wheat they purchase does not have genetic modifications.

“The damage that would occur to the Argentine wheat market would be irreparable and irreversible,” the group said.

The HB4 wheat variety was developed by Trigall Genetics, a joint venture between Bioceres and France’s Florimond Desprez.


50% of workers fear losing job in next 12 months: Global economic survey

Updated 49 min 33 sec ago

50% of workers fear losing job in next 12 months: Global economic survey

  • Saudi adults more optimistic of developing new skills for future jobs
  • 195m jobs lost worldwide amid COVID-19 pandemic: Egyptian minister

DUBAI: More than half the global workforce fears being made redundant in the next 12 months, according to a World Economic Forum-Ipsos survey.

The study, released on the eve of the World Economic Forum’s (WEF) Jobs Reset Summit, questioned 12,000 adults in 27 countries about employment prospects during the ongoing coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic.

And although at least 50 percent were concerned about losing their jobs over the coming year, two-thirds of workers worldwide said they could learn the skills needed for the jobs of the future through their current employer.

In Saudi Arabia, less than 20 percent of those who took part in the survey were very concerned about their jobs disappearing, compared to 39 percent in Spain.

While the findings painted an overall gloomy picture of the global job situation amid the COVID-19 outbreak, they also highlighted green shoots of optimism, particularly in the Kingdom.

Around 18 percent of Saudi workers were not at all worried about losing their jobs, more than the global average of 17 percent.

On learning, Saudis were even more enthusiastic, with 39 percent confident of gaining the necessary skills to compete for the new job opportunities of the future.

During a WEF discussion on the impact of the global health crisis on employment, Rania Al-Mashat, the Egyptian minister for international cooperation, described the COVID-19 pandemic as a mix of many crises that had rendered 195 million people jobless around the world.

But she said that Egypt’s young population offered great opportunities for the country and the government had already rolled out plans to tap into youth development before the virus outbreak.

“The Egyptian government has taken comprehensive measures to reshape the education system incorporating a significant technology element to the sector and this turned out to be very useful for home schooling during the lockdown,” the minister added during a session titled, “Building a New Economy and Society.”

Al-Mashat pointed out that Egypt was adopting the principles of stakeholder capitalism, and in order to utilize the energies of its youth had been actively creating entrepreneurial space and building a strong digital infrastructure. She said there had been many policy movements, especially in the creation of gender equality accelerators.

Alan Jope, the CEO of Unilever and a speaker in the same session, said COVID-19 was not the only current world crisis, adding that economic, health, geopolitical, trade wars, climate change, capital wars, and a few looming military conflicts could be added to a global list of crises.

He also noted that gross domestic product (GDP) should not be considered the only economic measure. “Our measures for success need to change, we’ll have to look at social and environmental parameters, and not just the GDP.”

Jope predicted plenty of future jobs but not in traditional areas of work. “Most of the jobs will be created in the low-carbon sector, along with the IT and biotech industries,” he said.