Drought genes to launch for maize

Financial Times (12 June, p.7)

A bacterial gene known as cspB is to be used in miaze to give the crop drought tolerance.BASF (Germany) and Monsanto (USA) plan to launch the dorught-hardy corn commercially in 2012.

The Soil Association commented in their press round-up today:
Although the GM industry has said for 25 years that GM crops are needed to feed the world, no drought-resistant or saline-tolerant GM crops are available commercially. The relationship between genes and groups of genes is so complicated, it is unlikely complex characteristics like drought resistance or nitrogen fixation can ever be achieved by genetic engineering. GM crops require cash to buy the patented seeds and herbicides – which can trap farmers in developing countries into a cycle of debt and dependence. Recent research from UN Environment Programme found that organic practices outperformed traditional methods and non-organic farming, and brought strong environmental benefits such as resistance to drought.

At the Feeding the World Conference, it was pointed out that there has been tangible progress with a drought-tolerant wheat as a result of the genetic engineering route. On balance it was also suggested that the possible ‘migration’ of the gene into the wild grass population was a risk with important ramifications – a risk which had not yet been properly assessed.

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