Thursday, January 05, 2006

Environmentally Friendly Frankenfoods

One of the strangest ironies of the environmental movement is its opposition to genetically engineered crops. These things are actually good for the environment and a boon to third world agriculture.

Currently, almost all biotech crops reduce the use of either insecticides or herbicides. Upcoming Monsanto products, however, more effectively kill pests and even combine the two traits. The Agriculture Department has just approved one that protects corn against both weeds and rootworms. These are actually voracious beetles nicknamed “the billion-dollar pest” because of their estimated annual cost to U.S. farmers.


Further, while a biotech plant such as cotton may boost an American farmer’s crop by 10% or more, I’ve met with African farmers at a U.S. meeting who said that same cotton DOUBLED their yields. That’s because the biotech seed is the ONLY advantage they have, with no access to tractors, pesticides, and even the global positioning system that U.S. farmers can use to tell them exactly where to spray and fertilize.

Speaking of which, one of Monsanto’s pipeline products is corn that increases nitrogen use. Most plants, including corn, must draw all of their life-sustaining nitrogen from the ground, so farmers must regularly apply fertilizer. Fertilizer costs money and, if not properly managed, can harm the environment when rain causes it to run off into waterways causing algae growth explosions that crowd out both plant and aquatic life.


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