More fairy tales about GM crops
At one point in the article a GM proponent is quoted as saying, "It floors me how many people are opposed to agricultural biotechnology without producing any rationale for why they're against it."
One's tempted to reply, "It floors me how many people are promoting agricultural biotechnology without producing any *evidence* for why we should support it."
But then that's the nature of the biotech bubble.
Will Genetically Modified Crops Make Inroads With Prices High?
BY DOUG TSURUOKA
INVESTOR'S BUSINESS DAILY, 20 May 2008 [shortened]
The genie may be coming out of the bottle where genetically modified crops are concerned.
Soaring world food prices appear to be chipping away at public and commercial objections to GM crops that sharply raise yields and slash growing costs for corn, wheat and other staples at a time when the biggest spike in commodities prices since the 1970s is driving up food prices worldwide...
"I think the debate about higher prices and being able to meet the demand of people in the world for food is a perfect opportunity to make the case (for GM crops)," Bob Stallman, president of the American Farm Bureau Federation, said at a recent global farming conference in Britain.
"GM crops aren't a silver bullet. But we think biotech can be a very beneficial tool in solving the world food crisis," said Monsanto spokesman Brad Mitchell.
Hardier Crops, Bigger Yields
The seeds that underlie GM crops are spliced with genes from other organisms to help them resist insects, herbicides and plant diseases. They can be made to grow on less fertilizer and water with less pollution.
In addition to cutting cultivating costs, this means that waste and drought-stricken lands can be tapped to boost food production. Another promising area: growing GM crops that are more nutritious than typical grains or vegetables.
Mitchell says Monsanto has pilot projects to develop more drought-resistant GM crops, those that use far less nitrogen fertilizer and others that produce far-higher yields.
The company also is getting ready to offer a type of GM corn that can be grown in drought-hit regions in the U.S. and overseas.
"We're also developing heart-healthy oils that are made mainly from GM soybeans."
DuPont (DD) has similar efforts. In March, it announced the development of a new soybean cooking oil made from GM soybeans with very low trans fat content. Novartis and Syngenta also have new GM strains of corn, maize, rice and other grains on the ways.
Farm consultant Cropnosis says the agricultural biotech market grew to more than $6 billion in 2006 from $3 billion in 2001. It's expected to reach $8.4 billion by 2011.
Felicia Wu, an assistant professor at the University of Pittsburgh School of Public Health says a powerful benefit of GM crops is that they can increase yields.
"That will have the effect of increasing supply which is what is necessary (to bring down prices)," said Wu, a food safety specialist.
Seventy-five percent of the field corn grown in the U.S. comes from genetically engineered strains, said National Corn Growers Association spokesman Ken Colombini. He says this proves how beneficial GM can be in boosting all kinds of agricultural production.
"One thing we've seen is an incredible increase in corn yields, and GM is one of the major forces that's behind these increased yields," he said.
GM crops are on tap with more nutrition.
University of Pittsburgh's Wu says most public fears about eating food from GM crops are unfounded. She says, for example, that there's no evidence that GM-based foods cause cancer.
"It floors me how many people are opposed to agricultural biotechnology without producing any rationale for why they're against it," Wu said.
Still Unpopular In The West
At the same time, she says those who advocate using GM crops to ease the food crisis have their work cut out for them.
According to a CBS News/New York Times poll in early May, 53% of Americans say they won't buy genetically modified food. The irony is that many of them already do.
"If people and their governments remain very much against the use of GM crops, it's not clear to me how more widespread use of GM crops can be accomplished."
Monsanto's Mitchell says force of necessity is the main argument in favor of using more GM crops.
"We'll have an additional 3 billion people on this planet in 40 years and they're all going to need food, energy and clothing, and a good part of that will come from agriculture," Mitchell said.
Ted Schettler warns that technological cures like GM crops rarely deliver on all their promises.
"They often have unintended consequences, and in this case are likely to divert attention from more fundamental causes of food shortages and maldistribution," said Schettler, science director at the nonprofit Science and Environmental Health Network.
"...in spite of studies conducted over the past few years, both at the whole plant level and using transgenic plants, understanding the mechanisms involved in nitrogen remobilization during leaf senescence and remobilization is still at a preliminary stage and requires more research."
Author:Ashok K. Shrawat and Allen G. Good
Title:Genetic Engineering Approaches to Improving Nitrogen Use Efficiency
Source:ISB News, May 2008
"Neither Monsanto nor Bayer LifeSciences was willing to provide any documentation to support their claims to drought-resistant crop strains."
Title:GM crops: Biotech agriculture - Time to take GM seriously
Source:Ethical Corporation, 7 February 2008
"Biotechnologists have reasons for exaggerating their abilities to manipulate plants. If 'biotechnology' is to contribute tolerant crops, these crops may still be decades from commercial availability. The generation of drought tolerant crops is likely to have a similar period of development."
Contributor:Tim Flowers, Professor of Plant Physiology, School of Life Sciences, University of Sussex
Conference:Can agricultural biotechnology be pro-poor?Examining the politics of policy in the developing world
Source:Institute of Development Studies, University of Sussex, 1-2 October 2003
US bio-engineers working to develop drought-resistant seeds say Kenyans should not expect to benefit from such "miracle crops" for at least eight to 10 years. Those currently starving in parts of the country and those likely to suffer hunger if drought conditions persist will have to look to emergency food aid rather than to agricultural self-sufficiency, the scientists say. Maize and other biotech crops able to thrive despite scant rainfall will not be planted in the United States until about 2010, says Christopher Horner, a spokesman for Monsanto, one of the world's leading developers of genetically modified seeds. Such crops "will be introduced initially in the United States well before they become available in other countries," Mr Horner adds.
Author:Kevin J. Kelley
Title:Drought-resistant GM seeds won't benefit Kenyans for the next decade
Source:The Nation (Kenya), 31 January 2006
"currently available GM crops do not increase the yield potential... In fact, yield may even decrease if the varieties used to carry the herbicide tolerant or insect-resistant genes are not the highest yielding cultivars".
Authors:Fernandez-Cornejo, J. & Caswell
Title:Genetically Engineered Crops in the United States
Source:USDA/ERS Economic Information Bulletin No. 11, April 2006
An earlier US Department of Agriculture report also noted that GM crops do not increase yield potential and may reduce yields (p21). That report also says, "Perhaps the biggest issue raised by these results is how to explain the rapid adoption of GE crops when farm financial impacts appear to be mixed or even negative." (p24)
Authors:Jorge Fernandez-Cornejo and William D. McBride
Title:Adoption of Bioengineered Crops
Source:Agricultural Economic Report No. AER810, May 2002