The ultimate BTO...

Published on: 09:30AM Aug 22, 2008

Monsanto's announcement of breathtaking seed price increases has produced some rumbling amongst the loyal.  Some of this response is defensive sniveling of course, but much of it I believe, arises from their sheer size and market dominance.  Regardless of the actions of large organizations, obvious dominance can be off-putting.

Ask WalMart.

But there can always be a bigger dog under the porch. And my hunch it is where big is being re-defined: China.

Whether changing minds or changing markets will be easier is difficult to say. UC Davis's Ronald says she thinks "a sea change in acceptance" will come about when people associate GM food with papaya or golden rice, not with Monsanto. And according to her, the current food crisis will completely reshape the discussion on genetic engineering. Then again, China might galvanize global GM acceptance. "If China is genetically engineering rice, there's going to be less of an inhibition for others," says Ronald. "Though they've not yet distributed GM rice broadly to farmers, there are a lot of rumors that they soon will. Most people think they're just getting their seeds in order." [More]

That China is investing in biotech crops is not news.  But just like we discovered in textiles, shoes, electronics, computers, etc. when they truly arrive in a market, they take up a lot of space.  Imagine what GM seed from China would do to our seed corn market, for instance.  With the profit margins outshining even the gaming industry, I gotta believe China is throwing brainpower at this technology like crazy.  I also think that Monsanto and other seed giants could discover what other industries are facing faster than we all imagine.

The Chinese have already developed genetically engineered rice strains with bred-in pest and disease resistance. They’re also experimenting with new nitrogen-efficient rice that needs only half as much fertilizer to get top yields. The new rice thus costs much less to grow, and emits far less greenhouse gas per ton of rice produced. They also say biotech rice “escapes” will not be a problem, since they’ve pre-programmed the rice to be hyper-sensitive to a particular herbicide.

China already permits the growing of genetically engineered peppers, tomatoes, and papaya, and much of its huge cotton crop is genetically modified to resist pests. Biotech has overcome the deadly ringspot virus, which severely hampers papaya production in much of the world, and provided virus resistance for tomatoes and peppers. Another genetic modification permits Chinese tomatoes to survive the longer shipping delays caused by the poor Chinese roads and lack of refrigeration. [More]

Our assumption that China will just be the manufacturer for the world dismisses too lightly the power of that many brains with that much to gain.

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