14 June 2013. Source:

The Department for Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) has granted approval for Rothamsted Research to extend a trial of genetically modified (GM) wheat this autumn.

The independent Advisory Committee of Releases to the Environment found that the trial will have no adverse effects on human health or the environment. Defra has set precautionary conditions to ensure no GM material will enter the food chain.

In 2011 Defra authorised Rothamsted Research in Hertfordshire to plant its GM aphid-resistant wheat in spring 2012 and 2013. The GM wheat produces a naturally occurring pheromone that not only repels aphids, but also attracts their natural enemies, such as ladybirds and wasps.

Currently, a significant proportion of the UK wheat crop is treated with chemical insecticides to control cereal aphids, which reduce yields by sucking sap from the plants and transmitting barley yellow dwarf virus.

Unfortunately, repeated use of such chemical sprays leads to aphids developing resistance to insecticides, while killing other beneficial species of insects and thereby damaging ecosystems.

Despite potential gains to be made by developing GM wheat with natural defence against aphids, Rothamsted was targeted by anti-GM activists last year. Defra said extending the trial will enable further data to be obtained on the performance of GM wheat later in the year, under different weather conditions and against different aphid populations.

A crop of spring-sown Cadenza GM wheat is being grown at the research centre. The autumn extension will be sown in mid-September and destroyed after 10-12 weeks in late November or December.