The wheat, known by the name CDC Imagine, stands straight even in high winds and unlike many varieties is not prone to losing its seeds in bad weather, says Kirk.
But what really sets it apart is a gene mutation. CDC Imagine has been genetically altered so it keeps growing when sprayed with herbicides that normally make wheat shrivel up and die. It's a distinction that makes CDC Imagine the first herbicide tolerant wheat in Canada.
Perhaps even more remarkable, this high-tech wheat has avoided the wrath of farmers, environmentalists, consumers and marketers who drove Monsanto's herbicide tolerant wheat out of Canada in 2004.
...BASF the world's largest chemical company, based in Germany created its wheat using a gene-altering process called mutagenesis, which is much more palatable to foreign markets and the Canadian Wheat Board than Monsanto's genetically modified creation.
Genetically modified plants have genes inserted or engineered into them that have been borrowed from other organisms, such as microbes, animals or other plants. Monsanto engineered herbicide tolerance into its wheat utilizing a soil bacterium.
Mutagenesis entails blasting seeds or cells with radiation or bathing them in chemicals to cause mutations in a plant's existing genes. Plant breeders have used the process for decades to create new flower colours or better barley for beer making. BASF used chemicals to create the mutation that protects CDC Imagine from herbicides.
Some say it doesn't really matter whether the plants are created through genetic engineering and mutagenesis. "It does seem to be splitting hairs," Kirk said in an interview from his farm in Climax, Sask.
"The risks to the environment are exactly the same," Yarrow says.
..."We have no concern with the BASF wheat, because it's not GM," says Maureen Fitzhenry, media relations manager at the Canadian Wheat Board.
...Plants with "novel traits" that have not existed before, such as herbicide tolerance, must undergo field trials and risk assessment in Canada regardless of whether they're created through genetic engineering or mutagenesis, says Yarrow. "It's the products that pose risks to the environment not the process," he says.
If it's the product and not the process, then why does the Canadian Wheat Board care if it's GM or not?