BS alert - GM crops "thrive" in drier conditions
The article claims that GM corn and soybean crops are thriving in arid fields across the Great Plains of the US Midwest, thus displacing wheat. And we're told that this ability to thrive in drier conditions is down to genetic engineering:
"Corn and soybeans varieties whose transgenic traits allow them to adapt to drier climates are making those crops more competitive for farmers to grow than wheat."
But there are *no* corn or soya GM products on the market that have been engineered to have any kind of drought resistance that would enable them to thrive in arid conditions.
Any claims of such GM traits are total BS. And note, in any case, that the expansion in western Kansas is said to be coming from *IRRIGATED* corn!
The GM soya and GM corn in question has been engineered only for herbicide resistance or, in the case of Bt corn, to express the pesticide Bt. Neither trait has anything to do with drought resistance.
A more credible explanation for this expansion in the corn and soya acreage is the market distortions caused by the massive subsidies for "biofuels".
Transgenic crops thrive in US
Associated Press, September 23 2008
Biotechnology that allows more profitable corn and soybean crops to thrive in arid fields is encroaching on traditional wheat growth across the Great Plains of the US Midwest, industry experts say.
Corn and soybeans varieties whose transgenic traits allow them to adapt to drier climates are making those crops more competitive for farmers to grow than wheat.
Not only has biotechnology moved those crops west, but it has boosted their yields, said Dusti Fritz, chief executive officer for Kansas Wheat, a cooperative venture of the Kansas Wheat Commission and the Kansas Association of Wheat Growers.
"It is in climates that had never seen production of those crops before," Fritz said. "That is true not only in Kansas, but if you think about the line of states from Texas all the way into North Dakota and Canada, it is true throughout that productive belt."
Irrigated corn acres are now common in western Kansas, where just 10 years ago little corn was grown in the region. The latest transgenic varieties may speed the transition.
Some of the new varieties of biotech corn, for example, reportedly can grow with 50 per cent less water, dramatically reducing costs for irrigation, Fritz said.
Corn generally costs more than wheat to grow because it needs more water and its seed is more expensive, but biotechnology is closing that gap at a time when wheat production costs are rising rapidly.
The Agriculture Department's Economic Research Service calculated the average cost to produce one metric ton of wheat was $6.93 per bushel in 2007 and $7.31 per bushel in 2008. The predicted average cost of production in 2009 is $8.10 per bushel.
In Kansas, farmers planted 9.9 million acres (4 million hectares) for their 2008 wheat crop, down from 10.4 million acres a year earlier, according to Kansas Agricultural Statistics Service. But planted acreage for corn rose to 4.10 million acres (1.66 million hectares) - the greatest number of acres planted into corn in Kansas since 1936. This year's Kansas corn crop is forecast to set a record high 522.6 million bushels.
While the trend away from wheat acres can be traced back to 1996, when changes in federal farm programs gave farmers more flexibility in their planting decisions, the latest biotechnology developments in corn and soybeans have accelerated the shift as those crops become more profitable. But there is no commercially available transgenic wheat in the market right now, she said.
Transgenic wheat has met with resistance from consumers both domestically and internationally, but Fritz believes advances in science and changing consumer attitudes may make biotech wheat commercially available in three to five years.
"The wheat industry is proactively working on this. It is a priority for wheat to have access to biotechnology," Fritz said. "There are a number of efforts ongoing by national and state wheat groups on this. Everybody is working together with other industry to make sure that it happens."
Farmers say their top priorities for transgenic wheat varieties would be drought resistance and enhancements in nutrient use by the plants.
"This competitiveness of transgenic crops is a key reason why we expect to see continued erosion in wheat acreage in the U.S.," John Oades, president and director of the West Coast office of US Wheat Associates, said in a news release. "It is also a fundamental reason why US producer leaders are making the effort to discuss the development of transgenic wheat with their customers here at home and around the world."