As we’ve noted previously on this blog, the summer’s severe drought has presented significant economic and food security challenges, while highlighting the need for innovative agricultural solutions that equip farmers with the tools to combat drought in the future. Agribusinesses are hoping to achieve just this with new GM corn varieties that are designed to better withstand arid conditions, reports TIME Magazine’s Bryan Walsh.
While trials are still underway, the initial findings are promising. “Hundreds of farmers in the western end of the Corn Belt-an area that runs to dry even in normal years-are field-testing DroughtGard, and Monsanto says early results indicate that the GM crop might improve yields by 4% to 8% over conventional crops in some arid conditions,” the article explains. Read more.
Farmers in South Dakota are watching closely to see how the new drought-tolerant biotech corn varieties perform when rainfall is six inches short over the last two months.
“I think it will be a good year even if we don’t have those 200 bushel yields,” Jared Questad, a farmer in Baltic, S.D., told KELO TV in Sioux Falls.
Questad, who is also a seed dealer for Pioneer Hi-Bred, a DuPont business, has the new AQUAmax variety in test plots. Other farmers in the area are testing Monsanto’s DroughtGard. The trials will help determine the viability of the new products under real-world conditions.
“We’re going to find out this year because this is the largest, widest range testing that’s going to be done on these products,” said Larry Wagner, agronomy crops field specialist at South Dakota State University Extension.
Drought tolerance is another trait brought to field crops by biotechnology, says Corby Jensen, Monsanto’s technology development manager for Nebraska and the Dakotas.
“It’s about the whole package, eliminating weeds that can rob the soils of valuable water, better genetics, residue management, using no-till practices have been a proven way to conserve soil moisture. So, again it’s about putting all those pieces together to give yourself the best chance at success possible,” Jensen said. Read more.
Richard Cornett of the Western Plant Health Association notes that if California passes legislation this November mandating labeling of all GM foods, food producers throughout the country will suffer from steep costs.
If the labeling initiative becomes law, nearly 80 percent of the food in California’s grocery stores will need to be labeled. Food companies will be required either to develop California-only packaging or simply change their packaging altogether, a process that would be extremely expensive and time-consuming. Read more.
According to the Boulder County Business Report, this week Boulder County, Colorado commissioners voted to allow genetically modified (GM) corn and sugar beets to be grown on open space owned by the county.
In response to the decision, GM crop proponents said that “science shows such crops are safe, and that they help farmers get better yields with fewer chemicals.” Read more.
Scientists in Ghana say biotechnology will contribute to socio-economic development
Ghana’s government pointed out support from local scientists who said biotechnology could help reduce poverty and improve the country’s food security at the Open Forum on Agricultural Biotechnology in Africa (OFAB) conference in Accra. Former Ghanaian president, John Agyekum Kufuor, won the World Food Prize this year for implementing initiatives that included technology solutions to alleviate hunger in Ghana.
Dr. Yaa Difie Osei, Senior Lecturer at the University of Ghana, said, “This approach will enable Ghana enhanced nutritional values and increase the life shelves of produce to sustain socio-economic development of the country.” Read more.
China supports GM corn to boost domestic corn output
According to All About Feed, China is testing genetically modified (GM) corn technology to boost domestic production, which has failed to meet the demand over the past two years. “We have approved one type of GMO strain and we’re testing to see if they can be applied to boost production,” said Chen Xiaohua, a vice agricultural minister. He added, “GMO technology is the strategic choice of the country in the future.” Read more.