Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Drought resistant GM crops ready 'in four years'

Guardian (UK): Genetically modified crops that are drought resistant will be grown by farmers within four to five years, according to scientists developing the technology. Dr David Dennis, the chief executive of Performance Plants Incorporated in Kingston, Ontario, said varieties of drought-tolerant oilseed rape and maize were already being tested in field trials in the US. He claimed the new varieties can increase yield by 40% when the plants are most water-stressed.

Climate scientists predict that global warming will make arable land in many developing countries less productive or unusable. Advocates of GM crops often defend the technology by arguing that drought and salt-tolerant varieties can play an important role in adapting to global warming.

Last month, the then UK science minister Dr Ian Pearson told the Guardian he thought the British public would support GM if the industry demonstrated environmental benefits. "I think that the public want to see benefits for GM technology for the consumer, not just for the fertiliser company or the farmer. If GM can demonstrably provide benefits for people living in sub-Saharan Africa then I think the public will want to support those as products and want to see them commercialised," he said.

But GM's opponents counter that drought and salt tolerance always seems to be just out of reach. "We would take any claims that these crops are just around the corner with a large pinch of salt because we have heard it all before," said Claire Oxborrow of Friends of the Earth. So far, almost all GM varieties available commercially are either tolerant of herbicides or produce their own pesticide…..

A test of GMO maize, undertaken in Bourgouin-Jallieu, Isère, France. Shot by Yann Forget, Wikimedia Commons, under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.2

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