Monsanto, global biotechnology pioneer, has initiated a collaboration
on a $47-million research on drought-resistant corn that could
over the long term also benefit drought-prone farms in the
The drought-resistant corn project, funded by the Bill and
Melinda Gates Foundation and the Howard G. Buffett Foundation,
involves the development through genetic modification (GM)
of a corn variety that can withstand extreme absence of moisture
over maybe three to four weeks. The drought-resistant gene
may come from a wild plant.
Drought-resistant corn that have so far been developed under
conventional means can last without moisture over one week.
The germplasm for the research which will be donated by
the International Maize and What Improvement Center, a sister
agency of the Philippines- based International Rice Research
The project, really meant for the benefit of more arid areas
in Africa as it is called Water Efficient Maize for Africa
(WEMA), may in some way benefit the Philippines in the future
as local farmers also need it.
"We don’t know if the Philippines can get it,
said Vic Alpuerto, Monsanto Philippines Inc. commercial acceptance
"But of course our farmers look for this. All of our
corn lands are in rainfed areas. No corn growing areas have
irrigation facilities. Drought is farmers’ most damaging
A private-public partnership program, the development of
the droughtresistant corn will involve no royalty for the
developers. With such system, the technology could perhaps
be generously donated to other needy countries.
Because of the food crisis, Monsanto has introduced a three-point
program which are developing better seeds, conserving resources
(to cut by one-third the resources like land, water, and
energy used by 2030), and helping improve farmers’ lives.
This program targets the doubling of corn yield from 109.1
bushels per acre in 2000 to 220 bushels by 2030 (in popular
markets in Argentina, Brazil, and the US). With two times
the yield, farmers will utilize just half the land of what
they are utilizing at present.
Researches on increased soybean and cotton yield will also
The GM technology may be brought in under the private-public
partnership by Monsanto and German firm BASF which has started
embarking on life science researches. Researchers from Kenya,
Uganda, Tanzania and South Africa will participate together
with the African Agricultural Technology Foundation.
"These commitments represent the beginning of a journey
that we will expand on and deepen in the years ahead," said
Monsanto Chairman Hugh Grant.
Most of Monsanto’s Dekalb hybrid corn varieties (including
those with borer resistance and herbicide resistance) already
have drought tolerance. But GM may enhance existing technologies.
For the first time in several decades, a significant increase
in price of commodities have been observed due to the higher
demand for protein in people’s diet particularly from
China and India, according to Grant.
And only an international collaboration can enable a more
extensive research that can benefit countries most impacted
by drought and the adverse effect of climate change.