Drought is one of the more pressing challenges to our nation’s farm families, so biotech companies, such as Monsanto, have been working to develop genetically modified crops that are resistant to drought conditions. However, a recent report by the Union of Concerned Scientists questions the effectiveness of this approach, specifically Monsanto’s introduction of DroughtGard, a drought tolerant corn. The group believes that the use of this product provides a minimal benefit compared to more traditional approaches such as breeding and overall improved farming practices. Monsanto maintains that this is not an ‘either/or’ situation. The company envisions DroughtGard playing an important role, alongside breeding and improved farming practices, within a crop management plan.
Report questions Monsanto’s drought tolerant corn
By Georgina Gustin, St. Louis Post-Dispatch
When federal regulators gave the green light last year to a variety of drought tolerant corn developed by Monsanto Co., the Creve Coeur-based biotechnology giant became the first company to deliver on a much touted promise to provide farmers with a crop that could withstand drought.
But a report issued Tuesday by the Union of Concerned Scientists, an environmental advocacy organization, said the genetically engineered product fails to conserve water and is only slightly more drought tolerant than its traditionally bred counterparts in severe drought conditions.
“We think it will be of very little use to farmers,” said Doug Gurian-Sherman, a plant pathologist and author of the report. “At the same time there seem to be conventional products that are as good or better.”
With farmers around the world facing greater – and increasingly erratic – drought, the biotechnology industry has labored to develop crops that will withstand dry conditions. Monsanto and its competitors say that achieving “more crop per drop” has been a major goal, and say they have invested heavily in research.