THE Department of Environment and Primary Industries plans to trial genetically modified wheat in Horsham.
The department has applied to the Office of Gene Technology Regulator for a two-hectare trial of wheat modified for increased yield stability and improved drought tolerance.
A department spokesman said the purpose of the field trial was to evaluate the agronomic performance of the GM wheat under field conditions.
"Upon approval from the regulator, genetically modified wheat plants would be planted in a field trial site, in a replicated row design," he said.
"Their growth, development and grain yield will be measured and compared with corresponding control, non-modified wheat lines.''
The trial is proposed between November 2013 and December 2015.
The spokesman said the GM wheat would not be permitted in human food or animal feed.
"Strict processes to comply with the licence conditions issued by the Office of Gene Technology Regulator are in place to ensure the contained nature of the field experiment," he said.
Rupanyup farmer and Grain Producers Australia chairman Andrew Weidemann said science and farming were pairing up for the future of grain production.
"We need to have access to the latest technologies," he said.
"There has been trial work undertaken on wheat in the past three or four years which is starting to bear fruit.
"Hopefully we might see the evolution of GM wheat released not just in Australia but worldwide."
He said GM wheat would benefit Wimmera farmers in regard to disease and frost resistance.
"Frost is a big issue for Wimmera farmers," he said. "For the consumer there is the potential health benefits especially for people with coeliac disease, they might eventually be able to eat wheat."
Mr Weidemann said wheat was a self-pollinating plant so there was little risk of contaminating other areas.
"Trials like this are run with strict protocols and guidelines," he said.
"There have been the odd instances where issues have occurred with GM canola in the past where the market has been damaged but they have been resolved quickly.
"Consumers can have confidence that things will be done appropriately and in accordance with the Australian Grains Council." In May, a GM wheat contamination in the United States shut down wheat exports to Japan and Korea.
The United States Department of Agriculture confirmed a farmer in Oregon found illegal GM wheat in his paddock.
The wheat was developed by the biotech transnational Monsanto to withstand direct application of Roundup.
Following the contamination, the Safe Food Foundation called for the Australian Government to ban open-air GM wheat field trials.
Foundation director Scott Kinnear said GM crops were harmful to the environment.
"GM wheat commercialisation poses an unacceptable threat to Australia's billion-dollar wheat industry," he said.
"GM crops are risky to consumers and unsustainable for farmers.
"They don't answer in any way the challenges the world is facing for future production of food.
"Australia is at a crossroad as far as the use of GM crops in agriculture is concerned.
"It is now time to decide if we want to follow the US example, leading to higher pesticide use and lower productivity, or if we prefer to adopt the European high performance, lower pesticide agricultural model and turn away from GM crops."
The Office of Gene Technology Regulator has prepared a Risk Assessment and Risk Management Plan which concludes that the proposed Horsham trial would pose negligible risk to human health and safety or to the environment.