A wide-ranging field trial as a basis for further projectsWheat is often attacked by mildew, a fungus that impairs both quality and yield. The resistance of wheat to mildew can be enhanced using genetic engineering. A large field trial will be carried out to ascertain how this genetically modified wheat behaves in the natural environment. The emphasis will also be on clarifying aspects of biosafety.BackgroundIt is known from laboratory trials that wheat plants can be genetically engineered to make them resistant to fungal attack to a certain degree. However, to date almost no field trials have been carried out in Europe with these fungus-resistant wheat lines. In particular, the way in which genetically modified wheat affects related wild plants, soil organisms and the ecosystem as a whole has not been investigated.ObjectivesGenetically modified wheat with enhanced resistance to mildew will be cultivated over a three-year period in two locations in Switzerland (Zurich-Reckenholz and Pully near Lausanne). These wheat lines will be investigated in eight separate - but coordinated - projects to ascertain environment-specific benefits and risks. The intention is also to use the field trial for extensive public debate.MethodsThe field trial will form the basis for individual projects, which will focus mainly on investigating resistance properties, risk assessments and ecological studies. These individual projects will be carried out by an interdiscip- linary research consortium (see under Boller, Felber, Keller, Maurhofer, Nentwig, Romeis, Sautter, Schmid for details of the projects). Special demonstration fields will make the research publicly accessible and will encourage debate. In addition, a website and public events will provide information on how the field trials are progressing and the results of the individual projects.SignificanceThe field trials will enable comprehensive new information to be acquired about the risks and benefits associated with disease-resistant wheat. They will help to clarify whether there is a future for genetically modified plants in Switzerland.