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Hot summer lights up drought-tolerant corn
31-August-2012 Malaya
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A corn whose gene has been modified to make the crop tolerant to drought is generating increased interest.

This, amid the current devastating drought in the US that is badly affecting at least half of the corn crop.

The drought tolerant corn is currently being tested in extensive field trials.

“It is premature to comment on the performance of the biotech drought tolerant corn until the analysis of data from the field trials in the US is completed later this year,” said the International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications (ISAAA) in a press statement.

Drought tolerance is an infinitely more complex trait than herbicide tolerance and insect resistance and progress is likely to be on a step by step basis, it said.

“Encouraging results from the 2012 field tests in the US for biotech drought tolerant corn would be a significant step forward to address drought, the most important constraint to increasing crop productivity globally, to which both conventional and biotech applications can contribute,” said Dr. Clive James, founder and chairman of the ISAAA, not-for-profit organization with an international network of centers designed to share crop biotechnology applications.

James said that American farmers continue to demonstrate unprecedented confidence in crops modified through biotechnology.

The June 2012 USDA Crop Acreage Report shows near or complete optimization of the current technology in the three large-acreage biotech crops – corn, soybean and cotton – first commercialized in the US in 1996.

“Unprecedented high adoption rates are testimony to overwhelming trust and confidence in biotech crops by millions of farmers worldwide,” said James. “Farmers are masters of risk aversion. As soon as biotech crops are commercialized, their adoption is rapid, leading to near or complete optimization.

“The simple reason for the success of biotech crops in the US and in 28 countries around the world is that they generate significant and multiple benefits by reducing yield loss from insect pests, weeds and diseases and result in substantial savings on pesticides.”

The June USDA Crop Acreage Report, James noted, shows a continuing trend to near-or complete optimization of the technology in three major US crops, with 88 percent of all corn, 93 percent of all soybean, and 94 percent of all upland cotton planted to biotech varieties and hybrids featuring the two principal traits of insect resistance and herbicide tolerance.

Since biotech crops were first commercialized in the US, and five other countries in 1996, millions of farmers in 29 countries worldwide have made decisions to plant and replant crops featuring the technology on an accumulated area of more than 1.25 billion hectares – an area of crop land 25 percent larger than the total land mass of the United States.

ISAAA data indicate that US farmers continued to plant more biotech crops than any country in the world in 2011 – a total of almost 70 million hectares of which half the corn area and two-thirds of cotton had more than one trait, generating multiple benefits.

In addition to the three principal biotech crops of corn, soybean and cotton, the US also grew half a million hectares of sugar beet (95 percednrt adoption achieved in five years – the fastest rate of adoption in the US and modest hectarages of biotech canola, alfalfa, squash and papaya.

James said that “the expected plateauing trend to optimal adoption rates of around 90 percent that we have seen in the US has also been evident in other industrial countries like Australia with 99.5 perecent adoption in biotech cotton.

Similarly, as expected, the major biotech crops in principal developing countries exhibit the same trend, again confirming the trust and confidence of farmers in the technology.

Herbicide tolerant soybean has virtually reached 100 percent in Argentina and the latest ISAAA data for 2011 shows Bt cotton in India at 88 percent and biotech soybean in Brazil at 83 percent.

Given that products in mature markets are already plateauing at close to optimal rates, incremental annual growth in adoption will be more modest and will be boosted as additional hectares are planted, as was the case with total corn plantings in the US in 2012 that is up 5 percent.

Increased adoption will also come as new traits or new biotech crops are approved or new countries adopt biotech crops, James said.

Developing countries grew approximately 50 percent of global biotech crops in 2011 and are expected to exceed industrial countries’ land area devoted to the crops in 2012, James said. Additionally, more than 90 percent of farmers planting biotech crops worldwide (equivalent to over 15 million farmers) are small resource-poor farmers in developing countries, up 8 percent or 1.3 million since 2010, he added.

After more than a decade in development, approval of biotech Golden Rice is expected in the Philippines in 2013/14. This very important product has the capability to generate life-saving humanitarian benefits – 6,000 people a day, mainly women and children, die from complications resulting from vitamin A deficiency. SOURCE: ISAAA

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