Tuesday, April 3, 2012

GMO Drought-Tolerant Corn Over-Promises: Plant Scientist

(Reuters) - Utilizing biotech "drought-tolerant" corn to boost global food production would be a less-effective tactic than planting conventional corn and improving agronomic practices, a veteran plant scientist said on Tuesday.

"The technology has gotten a tremendous amount of attention. We think undue attention," said Doug Gurian-Sherman, a plant pathologist and senior scientist at the Union of Concerned Scientists, in an interview at the Reuters Food and Agriculture Summit."

"It is a modest benefit and a real benefit and a step forward. But it is really kind of a baby step," Gurian-Sherman, who served on a FDA biotech advisory subcommittee from 2002 to 2005, said of biotech advances in drought tolerance."  
He said drought-tolerant corn "is going to be useful for many 15 to 20 percent of the areas where moderate levels of drought are pretty predictable, places like Nebraska and Kansas. It is not likely to be helpful at all with the kinds of severe droughts that we've had in Texas the last couple of years. This crop is going to die just like any other corn crops under those conditions."

Many companies have been racing to roll out drought-tolerant crop technologies. The world's largest seed company, Monsanto Co (MON.N), is conducting on-farm trials of its genetically modified drought-tolerant corn seed this spring.

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