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January 2009 Archive for Economic Sense

RSS By: Matt Bogard, AgWeb.com

Matt's primary interest is in the biotech industry and ag policy.

A Biotech Update and Review

Jan 23, 2009
A few months back I had a post  commenting that the organic movement should embrace biotechnology to be truly sustainable. I provided a link to an article in the Boston Globe written by Pamela Ronald ( a plant scientist) and her husband ( an organic farmer). They are both authors of the book "Tomorrow's Table: Organic Farming, Genetics, and the Future of Food."  An additional letter was submitted to Science this past November:

"The false dichotomy that has been constructed between GM crops and organic farming can be illustrated with numerous similar examples. Another discussed by the authors is Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) toxin, which has been successfully commercialized by Monsanto. These small insecticidal proteins, synthesized by widespread soil bacteria, can be applied in an almost unregulated way by organic farmers. This has been done for many decades. Yet when genetic engineering is used to place the gene encoding the Bt toxin in a plant's genome, the resulting GM plants are vilified by the very people willing to spray the product encoded by this same gene over otherwise similar plants. The organic movement's sustained rejection of this current application of GM appears increasingly illogical as evidence continues to accumulate that it does reduce pesticide use. In fact, this reduction is the principal reason farmers pay more for the biotech seeds-their lowered expenditures on pesticides are saving them money."

These ideas are further supported by research from the USDA that I just found tonight, but also published in November, stating that Bt corn was much better for the environment than conventional corn:

"The most influential factor was the insecticide applied. Collectively, insecticides such as pyrethroids, organophosphates, carbamates and neonicotinoids had larger negative impacts on non-target insects than did the Bt crops."

A  few years back there was some work coming out of Cornell that indicated that biotech corn ( specifically Bt Corn) was killing monarch butterflies.  ( actually, I'm being a little inaccurate but that is the marching orders we hear from the anti-biotech crowd that still cites this outdated research) 

Be sure, this research has been updated and refuted.

A few months ago I mentioned some research published in Science in 2007 further indicating the benefits to biodiversity from growing Bt corn.

Many are now beginning to realize that the marriage of agriculture, capitalism, and science can be a good thing, for the producer, the consumer, and the environment.


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