Monday, October 11, 2010

Disappointing yields from engineered seed may not stop companies from controlling market

Minimalism, a movement more commonly associated with the arts, has finally caught on in agriculture, but that may not be enough to thwart seed company control, writes one farmer. The movement "has finally gotten around to agriculture, because now we know that crops with more transplanted genes can be poorer than better hybrids with less DNA fiddling," Richard Oswald writes for the Daily Yonder. Last week we reported seed giant Monsanto was facing dropping stock prices after its most recent product, SmartStax corn, which contains an unprecedented eight inserted genes, produces yields no higher than products with fewer inserted genes.

"Gene stacking, the seed company practice of cramming as many versions of the insecticidal bacteria, bacillus thuringiensis, into corn hybrids doesn't necessarily deliver superior yields unless the genes are placed into superior yielding plants," Oswald writes. "One problem may be that once the gene insertion takes place; good genes are disrupted which renders that corn plant less than it might have been." Oswald speculates that if the highly touted Roundup Ready 2 gene doesn't return higher yields as projected when it replaces the original Roundup Ready gene after protections expire in 2014, farmers may chose to save seed from their own farm instead of paying for the new product.

Farmers may not have that option because "if somehow the Roundup Ready 2 gene were to be found in older Roundup soybeans, farmers could be prevented from growing their own seed by the same patent law that’s held seed-savers at bay over the last 16 years," Oswald writes. The gene could conceivably jump from adjoining fields planting the Roundup 2 seeds. "For better or worse, a single company could be an economic gatekeeper, controlling seed rights and profits from an entire crop grown worldwide, for another 20 years," Oswald writes. "That could go on and on as new gene insertions continue to be patented … possibly forever." (Read more)

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