New, drought-resistant strains of corn helped farmers get through the drought in 2012 that cut the harvest to about 75 percent of what would have been expected with ordinary weather, according to “U.S. Drought 2012: Farm and Food Impacts,” a recent USDA report. Even with pressure from the drought, the harvest was a quite sizeable.
“The harvest was the eighth largest in U.S. history, a reflection of a big increase in recent years in the number of acres planted and crop technology that has improved plants’ ability to withstand drought,” according to a recent article from the Associated Press. READ MORE »
Photo courtesy of The Globe and Mail
In writing about the pro-biotech speech by British environmental activist Mark Lynas, during which he publicly apologized for years of anti-biotech activities, Canadian commentator Margaret Wente says the tremendous stir it caused may mark a turning of the tide of public opinion.
“People are hungry to hear from a new generation of environmental moderates who value science and pragmatism over ideology and absolutes,” Wente wrote in her column in The Globe and Mail, Canada’s largest national newspaper. “They want to hear from those like Mr. Lynas, who think technology can be a force for good, and want to find practical approaches to environmental problems.”
Lynas himself sees a shift in opinion, Ms. Wente wrote, quoting him from an interview.
“Something has moved in the terms of this debate,” she quoted Lynas as saying. “It’s like the cresting of a wave. It’s as if everyone has simultaneously realized that the anti-GM movement doesn’t actually have anything backing it up,” he said. READ MORE »
Crop biotechnology is desperately needed to meet problems of drought, saline soils, loss of farmland, rural poverty, and population growth, according to Neal Carter, an orchardist and bioresource engineer who has developed a non-browning apple.
“It’s a huge challenge, and biotech crops are leading the way in allowing us to address it,” Carter said in a talk at a TEDx conference. Carter’s company is bringing out the Arctic Apple, which doesn’t turn brown when sliced.
Carter took on the claims by biotech opponents that the technology is unsafe, pointing out that the food safety of genetically engineered crops has been affirmed by the American Medical Association, World Health Organization, and Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, among other distinguished groups.
Biotechnology reduces food waste, makes better use of water, increases yields, improves farmer income, and improves people’s lives, Carter said.
A video of his presentation is available here.
While innovation is recognized as an important element for America’s manufacturing and information technology sectors, it also plays a critical role in advancing U.S. agriculture and making our farmers the most productive in the world. This was the theme of Agriculture: Growing Innovation & Opportunities, a conference hosted by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce today in Washington.
Conference speakers cited several innovations in agriculture that enable farmers to grow more food on less land, with fewer inputs and a smaller environmental footprint. These include better soil management practices, improved water conservation methods, the use of GPS technology and other smart applications, better nutrient management systems, and the development, maturation and utilization of agriculture biotechnology crops.
Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack said innovations in crop genetics helped farmers cope with last summer’s drought. “We just suffered through the most serious drought that this country has faced since the 1930s. Had we faced this drought without seed genetics, we would have seen serious crop losses. We still had a corn crop ranked in the top 10 in productivity in U.S. history. And it’s a result of seed genetics and innovation. And it’s a result of farmers embracing new planting technologies that allow us to preserve and conserve water resources and still maintain and provide a crop,” he said. READ MORE »
British Environment Secretary Owen Paterson voiced his support this week for the production of genetically engineered crops in the UK, stating that there were “real environmental benefits” to the technology, BBC News reports. In an interview with Britain’s Daily Telegraph, he emphasized the potential role for ag biotech in advancing the British farming sector. Paterson also said accusations that biotech crops are unsafe are “nonsense” and “humbug.”
Secretary Paterson’s pro-biotech stance was echoed by the British government, which confirmed that it was encouraging European Commission officials to make it easier for farmers to grow GM crops. “We think this should be based on the science and we need to ensure public safety, but if we can speed up a slow [regulatory] system then we should do that,” the Prime Minister’s official spokesperson explained. Read more.