Tuesday, May 04, 2010

Biotech Follow-up

A couple of news items related to the previous post on genetically engineered crops:

The New York Times reported yesterday on an issue that has received a lot of attention in the farm press - U.S. Farmers Cope with Roundup-Resistant Weeds. The article reports that while "the first resistant species to pose a serious threat to agriculture was spotted in a Delaware soybean field in 2000," Ten resistant species in at least 22 states now present significant problems, particularly with respect to corn, soybeans and cotton production. “It is the single largest threat to production agriculture that we have ever seen,” said Andrew Wargo III, the president of the Arkansas Association of Conservation Districts. While chemical and seed companies are seeking to develop new biotech crops resistant to other kinds of pesticides, Roundup is referred to as "a once-in-a-century discovery."
Glyphosate “is as important for reliable global food production as penicillin is for battling disease,” Stephen B. Powles, an Australian weed expert, wrote in a commentary in January in The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Farmers in Georgia and Arkansas are particularly concerned about a resistant variety of a giant pigweed.

And, the Wall Street Journal reported that Biotech Firms Seek Speedier Reviews of Seeds.

The crop-biotechnology industry, growing frustrated as it watches the approval time for new seeds almost double under the Obama administration, is pressuring Washington to clear inventions more quickly.

The logjam at the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which must clear genetically modified seeds, is slowing the launch of products that could give farmers more alternatives to seeds from crop biotech giant Monsanto Co.
Also, some biotech-industry executives worry the delays signal that the Obama administration, which has painted itself as pro-biotech, is gearing up for a far tougher analysis of the potential environmental impact of these crops, which could make it harder for inventions to reach the marketplace. . . . The agency, long a cheerleader for U.S. crop biotechnology, has never turned down a genetically modified crop, although inventors have withdrawn some candidates. Caleb Weaver, USDA press secretary, said the department is "looking into both immediate and long-term solutions to increase the efficiency and effectiveness of the review process." Among other things, the USDA is asking Congress to increase its annual biotechnology oversight budget by 46% to $19 million.


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