News last update:6 Aug 2012

German GM barley field destroyed

A trial field to investigate whether genetically modified barley has undesirable impacts on beneficial soil fungi like mycorrhizas has been destroyed. The land belongs to the University of Giessen.

About 5000 GM barley plants had been planted on the research station site belonging to the Institute for Phytopathology and Applied Zoology at the end of April. They had been produced from two barley lines developed in the USA. One of them contains an active chitinase gene from a soil fungus. Chitinases break down chitin, which is also a component of fungal cell walls. The second line contains a gene from a soil bacterium that produces glucanase. The gene was transferred to barley to improve its brewing properties and to make it more easily digestible as animal feed. However, glucanase also has fungus-resistant properties.

Effect on fungi
The research project led by Giessen-based biologist Prof. Karl-Heinz Kogel is investigating whether the formation of enzymes that break down chitin and glucan also harms beneficial fungi. If the two GM barley lines were to prove harmful to these fungi, which are important for the health and vigour of plants, this would have great significance for agricultural ecosystems.

Both GM barley lines are a long way off being used commercially in Europe. Despite the destruction, it was still possible to evaluate parts of the trial last year. These findings were to be tested and confirmed during the current growing season. The trial will be continued this year again.

Related website:
University of Giessen

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