GMOs as aid that grow (Google / Genetic maize)

Read at Google Alert – drought

GMOs as aid that grow

As I said in my recent post “Reason: as in rational thought“, author Robert Paarlberg reported that the Gates Foundation would be contributing to the development of drought tolerant maize varieties for Africa. Details can be found in a press release from AATF (African Agricultural Technology Foundation), via ISAAA’s March 28 Crop Biotech Update. I’ve posted the release below the cut for your convenience. One of the most exciting parts of the WEMA (Water Efficient Maize for Africa) project is that it pulls in such a diverse group – including research entities from the participating countries, the well known non-profit CIMMYT, and the corporations Monsanto and BASF.

In this project, the corporations will not charge any royalties to small scale farmers. I’m assuming they plan to make their profits from large farmers in the developed world that are now or will soon be experiencing destructive droughts, such as Australia. Clearing up licensing issues before a project begins seems to be the best course, especially if we consider the fate of Golden Rice. This ensures that the people who most need the technology will be able to afford it, and that protracted legal battles will be avoided.

It’s easy to hate Monsanto at times (especially if you are anti-establishment), but it seems that the company is trying to be a better global citizen, if not for any other reason than to increase their potential customer pool. Who, besides Monsanto and a handful of other biotech companies, has the resources to conduct the research and produce desperately needed varieties like WEMA? Non-profits and government programs will never be able to do it alone.

Monsanto has information about the WEMA project on their website, including this telling photo with the caption: “Field trial of corn with the drought tolerant gene (on right) and control hybrid (on left). Note the greater size and healthier structure of the drought tolerant corn.


Author: Willem Van Cotthem

Honorary Professor of Botany, University of Ghent (Belgium). Scientific Consultant for Desertification and Sustainable Development.

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