A GENETICALLY modified wheat variety developed in Argentina has won Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) approval to be sold and consumed within Australia.
The application, made by Trigall Genetics, will allow wheat from the drought and herbicide tolerant HB4 variety to enter the Australian food chain.
However, Australian grain industry leaders pointed out this did not mean Aussie growers would be growing GM wheat any time soon, saying the variety was registered for food safety, not with the Office of the Gene Technology Regulator (OGTR), which is required before a variety can be grown here.
At this stage there are no records on the OGTR website of applications to grow GM wheat.
Matthew Cossey, chief executive of Australia's plant biotechnology peak body, said it was good news to see FSANZ found GM products completely safe.
He said while any company interested in developing a genetically modified wheat for planting in Australia would have to go through the relevant regulatory process the FSANZ decision showed the inherent safety of the technology.
"It does not change what would need to happen before Australian wheat growers have access to this technology but it does add confidence there would be market acceptance of the product if it was to be grown," Mr Cossey said.
"Traits like drought and salt tolerance are really important to Australian growers and hopefully we can see research on this front in coming years."
He said wheat was a slow burn in terms of research due to the complexity of its genetic make-up.
"Wheat is Australia's major crop, but unfortunately work on introducing traits can be slower because of its genome, which is a lot more complicated than other popular crops like corn or soybeans."
"We've seen with the Argentine work that it can be done so we're hoping to see more traits be developed with more research."
Brett Hosking, Grain Growers chairman, said he would like to see Australian growers one day having the option of growing GM wheat.
"Obviously you'd have to look at market acceptance but you can see from the FSANZ decision there is no issue with its safety," Mr Hosking said.
"We already grow GM cotton and canola and those products have really good fits within farming systems, so if that was one day extended to wheat, especially with novel traits such as drought tolerance I think growers would be really interested in that."
Mr Hosking said decisions such as the FSANZ move would continue to improve public confidence in genetically modified food crops.
"We had a lot of concern from the community with the early days of GM canola but I think there is more widespread public acceptance of GM technology these days.
"People are more conscious of the environment and these crops with their traits are a way of ensuring good environmental stewardship, lowering emissions per tonne of grain produced and things like that so I think there has been a change in the way the crops are seen by the public."
In its statement FSANZ said HB4 wheat was as safe as conventional wheat to consume.