Innovations in agricultural biotechnology continue to provide successful solutions to present-day challenges, from “golden rice” that can alleviate vitamin-A deficiencies in children throughout the developing world, to biotech papayas resistant to a virus that previously threatened Hawaii’s entire papaya industry, writes Alex Berezow, editor of RealClearScience and a co-author of “Science Left Behind.”
Potential advancements in ag biotech have been held back by misleading efforts to play down the technology’s benefits and exaggerate the risks, Berezow points out, citing the Proposition 37 initiative. “Biotechnology simply opens new opportunities and allows the modification to occur quickly and far more accurately,” he explains in today’s Wall Street Journal. “Humans have been genetically modifying food for millennia via artificial selection.”
“There’s a reason that respected scientists, medical doctors and government officials embrace GMOs: They understand the technology and its potential for revolutionary change. For a world population that will hit nine billion people by 2050, we need every tool in the arsenal to keep improving agricultural production and bring the developing world out of poverty,” he concludes. Read more.
Farmers who planted drought-tolerant corn varieties this year said the corn appeared to endure drought better than other varieties, The Wall Street Journal reports.
“It seems like it takes a lot more stress, it’s a lot more tolerant,” said a farmer in Nebraska who planted DuPont’s drought tolerant corn variety Optimum AQUAmax.
A study published in 2010 by Iowa State University points out that conventional breeding techniques and biotechnology used by agricultural companies including Monsanto, DuPont and Syngenta have already helped to reduce drought related losses for the U.S. corn crop by 1 percent a year in the last decade.
Researchers note that even small gains in corn bioengineering can lead to significant improvements in the size of corn crops and have “a huge economic impact.” David Lightfoot from Southern Illinois University says progress is going to have the biggest payoff for the crops that have grown in some of the driest areas of Midwest. Read more.
According to Reuters and Bloomberg, China signed agreements in Iowa to purchase biotech soybeans from American suppliers, strengthening the trade relationship between the two countries. The Wall Street Journal noted that Iowa is the nation’s biggest grower of biotech soybeans, while China is the world’s biggest importer and consumer.
The following day, Chinese and U.S. officials, including China’s Vice President Xi Jinping, attended the USDA’s first inaugural “U.S.-China Agricultural Symposium” in Des Moines. The USDA announced that U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and Minister of Agriculture Han Changfu had signed a historic Plan of Strategic Cooperation, designed to guide the two countries’ agricultural relationship over the next 5 years.
Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack explained, “This plan builds on the already strong relationship our nations enjoy around agricultural science, trade, and education. It looks to deepen our cooperation through technical exchange and to strengthen coordination in priority areas like animal and plant health and disease, food security, sustainable agriculture, genetic resources, agricultural markets and trade, and biotechnology and other emerging technologies.”