The Atlantic: Concerns about GM alfalfa contamination not backed by data
According to an article in The Atlantic, media reports that are critical of the USDA’s recent decision to deregulate genetically modified alfalfa neglect to provide supporting data. Author and food columnist James McWilliams says, “As I encountered one condemnatory article after another regarding Tom Vilsack’s choice to deregulate GM alfalfa, I kept wondering what I often wonder when grappling with an agricultural controversy: where’s the data?”
Dr. Dan Putnam, a forage expert at UC-Davis, conducted extensive research finding that the chances of cross-contamination from Roundup Ready alfalfa seed are nominal. “With a contamination possibility that’s less than 1 percent, we are not looking at a scenario in which GM alfalfa is going to overtake its organic counterpart,” Mr. McWilliams says citing Putnam’s study. Read more.
Sugar growers and sweetener users support biotech sugar beet seed
A National Journal article by prize-winning agricultural journalist Jerry Hagstrom points out that support for genetically modified seeds has created a rare source of agreement for sugar growers and sweetener users. When the two interest groups gathered this week for their annual International Sweetener Colloquium in San Diego, rather than clash on the usual hot topic of sugar prices, they found common ground over concerns that federal district court rulings on genetically engineered sugar beet seed have caused uncertainty about the American sugar supply.
In a recent letter to the USDA, the Federal Sweetener Association said the U.S. economy would be negatively impacted if growers could not plant genetically engineered beets. “The lack of alternative strategies for securing adequate supplies would create shortages, place large numbers of manufacturing jobs at risk, drive some already-struggling small businesses into bankruptcy, and raise consumer prices,” the association of candy companies and other industrial consumers of sweeteners said. Read more.
GM Prairie Grass produces cheaper, more abundant ethanol, Bloomberg reports
According to Bloomberg, research shows that genetically modified prairie grass, called switchgrass, could one day provide a cheaper biofuel, and the Department of Energy says it has the potential to reduce U.S. dependence on foreign oil. The authors of a research report from the National Academy of Sciences indicate that bioengineered switchgrass can produce ethanol more efficiently and may also help with the production of other newly emerging fuels made from the cellulose in plants. Read more.
GM crops necessary to improve ag productivity
As part of the New York Times online series “Is the World Producing Enough Food?”, Michael J. Roberts, assistant professor of agricultural and resource economics at North Carolina State University, says that genetically modified crops are important for agricultural productivity.
“The greatest hopes against truly catastrophic declines in crop production are a possible boost from CO2 fertilization and improved productivity through breeding or genetically modified crops.” Dr. Roberts discusses the need for improved productivity to meet the demands of a growing world population and increasingly high food community prices. Read more.