Past Time for Genetically Enhanced Wheat

GMO WheatAmericans and much of the rest of the world have
been safely and healthfully eating foods made from ingredients
derived from modern biotech corn and soybean varieties for more
than a decade. An
insightful op-ed
in today’s New York Times argues that
it is way past time for researchers to develop and farmers to plant
enhanced biotech wheat varieties. Like corn and soy, genetically
enhanced wheat would resist insects and herbicides. As Oklahoma
State University agricultural economist Jayson Lusk and physician
Henry Miller of Stanford University’s Hoover Institution point

Today, it’s easy to see why corn and soybean farmers made the
switch. Crop yields have increased and farmers have been able to
reduce their use of chemical insecticides and shift to less toxic
herbicides to control weeds. They’ve also made more money. Over the
same period, the amount of land planted in wheat has dropped by
about 20 percent, and although yields have increased, productivity
growth has been lower than for the crops genetically engineered
with molecular techniques….

The scientific consensus is that existing genetically engineered
crops are as safe as the non-genetically engineered hybrid plants
that are a mainstay of our diet. The government should be
encouraging and promoting these technologies.

Besides endowing wheat with now-standard enhancements,
researchers can also add drought resistance characteristics. For
example, Egyptian researchers reported ten years ago that they had

dramatically increased drought resistance
in wheat by adding a
specific gene from barley to wheat:

The researchers, at Cairo’s Agricultural Genetic Engineering
Research Institute (AGERI), say their technique reduces the number
of irrigations needed from eight to one, and that the wheat could
be cultivated with rainfall alone in some desert areas.

The Times op-ed concludes:

Given the importance of wheat and the confluence of tightening
water supplies, drought, a growing world population and competition
from other crops, we need to regain the lost momentum. To do that,
we need to acquire more technological ingenuity and to end
unscientific, excessive and discriminatory government

Yes indeed.

For more background, see my article, “The
Top 5 Lies About Biotech Crops

from Hit & Run

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