University of Georgia crop scientist and BIO panelist Wayne Parrott is quoted in Tuesday’s Reason Online “Yielding to Ideology Over Science” discussing modern farming accomplishments and the benefits of ag biotech in food production. When comparing the rate of increase in corn yields between biotech-friendly U.S. and biotech-hostile France and Italy over the past ten years, Parrott notes, “In marked contrast to yield increases in the U.S., yields in France and Italy have leveled off.”
The Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) and other groups argue that modern crop biotechnology should be largely abandoned because it has failed to increase agricultural yields.
“To the extent to which groups like UCS have advocated prohibitive and disproportional regulations, they are responsible for the lack of even greater achievements in operational yield and perhaps even in intrinsic yield. In fact UCS is on the record as opposing engineered stress tolerance in crops. Such a stance by UCS is untenable and contradictory—yield losses caused by adverse growing conditions defeats the purpose of having a higher intrinsic yield—that is why it is so important to increase operational yield, and increasing operational yield is done with resistance to biotic and abiotic stresses—i.e., adverse growing conditions.”
Ronald Bailey, Reason magazine’s science correspondent, agrees:
“Increasing crop yields to meet humanity’s growing demand for healthful food while protecting the natural world will require deploying the full scientific armamentarium. This includes advances in crop breeding, improvements in cultivation practices, the safer deployment of fertilizers, pesticides, and herbicides—and, yes, genetic engineering. It is odd that while the UCS accepts the scientific consensus on man-made global warming, it refuses to accept the scientific consensus on the safety, usefulness, and environmental benefits of biotech crops.”
“In the end, after helping prevent scientific advances with genetically modified crops, the UCS is not in a good position to be calling genetically modified crops a failure because their scientific advances have not been greater.”