Friday, April 27, 2012

Drought-resistant Argentine soy raises hopes, concerns

Liliana Samuel in PhysOrg: Researchers in Argentina have isolated a drought-resistant sunflower gene and spliced it into soy, bolstering hopes for improved yields as the South American agricultural powerhouse grapples with global warming.
Raquel Chan's team identified the HAHB4 gene that makes sunflowers resist dry conditions and implanted it in rockcress flowering plants known as arabidopsis, whose resistance to drought increased considerably.
Her team has signed an agreement with Argentine firm Bioceres, which is co-owned by over 230 agricultural producers, to use and exploit the gene. The firm has conducted tests on soy, wheat and corn crops.
Soy is the biggest cash crop in Argentina, a major exporter of byproducts like soybean oil and flour, but the prospect of creating a transgenic soy plant has some experts concerned about the potential for environmental harm.
Supporters of the technology say the boost in productivity could mean as much as $10 billion in added profits each year, particularly after a severe drought recently slashed Argentina's soy output by more than a third.
But the environmental advocacy group Greenpeace said the transgenic seeds would promote deforestation and the expansion of soy crops into new regions such as Patagonia, as well as cause a "significant loss" in biodiversity and force thousands of farmers and native people to relocate.
And because it is genetically modified, the new soy seed would have little to no prospects of being sold in markets where such crops are opposed or outlawed, as in Europe....
Harvesting soy in Argentina, shot by Arpatt, under the Creative Commons CC0 1.0 Universal Public Domain Dedication

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