Why Biotechnology Will Save Our Ass

By Keith Kloor | May 14, 2011 7:10 am

If climate projections prove even partly correct in the coming decades, many areas of the planet will experience longer and nastier drought conditions.

Let’s be clear: that won’t be anybody’s idea of fun in the sun.

But as SciAm’s David Biello reports,

for the last several years agribusiness giants like Monsanto, Pioneer and Syngenta have been pursuing genetic modification to enable the corn plant to thrive even without enough rain. And now the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is considering approving a new corn hybrid genetically engineered to thrive with less water“”the first time such a corn strain would be available.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: biotechnology, climate change, GMOs
  • Tom Fuller

    Biotech will have to hurry. Robotics and nanotechnology may save our pimply butt first.

  • Sashka

    There is no reason to believe the drought projections.

  • Jim Allison

    Of course, there already are non-bioengineered varieties of maize that will thrive with very little rain. Most of the maize varieties grown by Native Americans in the Southwest are much more drought resistant than the stuff that is grown on modern industrial farms. So I’m not sure why the genetic engineering is necessary in this case. A bit more effort toward preserving the already existing genetic variation seems like a better idea to me.

  • Sashka

    Maybe because we need both high yield and drought resistance?

  • http://rabett.blogspot.com Eli Rabett

    Jim, two words yield and profit

  • Tom Gray

    Isn’t the idea of genetic engineering is this case to preserve and take advantage of the current genetic diversity?  The appropriate genes can be assembled in an organism more quickly than could be done with traditional cross breeding and cultivation

    This is a real question. I don;t know the answer.
    However I do believe that seeing that we are all facing the same problem together and assuming that some people are motivated by “yield and profit” only is shortsighted and not helpful.

    AGW is potentially a grave problem and treating this issue as some sort of juvenile academic debate with sides to be “cornered” is definitely not useful

  • Pascvaks

    Day before yesterday I was out driving around looking at some recent tornado damage when I came across some biotech engineering that actually made me recall a long-forgotten picture I’ve had in my old grey head since I was a tike of someone’s ass.  You might say that experience saved the biotech art of making an ass, for me.  I hadn’t seen one in ages, really!  And there they were, smack dab in a field under a tree near a country house with some roof damage thanks to the tornadoes.  Three mules!  (aka- ‘jackass americana’)  You know, my biggest fear of the Brave New World of Bio-Tech is that there just ain’t enough space between folks anymore.  With 6,7 billion people on the planet, and 1/10th of them being crazy, there’s going to be an accident one day, and it’s going to spread like a Texas wild fire, and a lot of folks are going to get killed, and some damned lawyers are going to make a lot of money, and some damned politicians are going to say how upset they are and if we’ll only vote for them it won’t ever happen again.  Hummmm… I think it’s the “A” in AGW that’s the BIG problem.


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Collide-a-Scape is an archived Discover blog. Keep up with Keith's current work at http://www.keithkloor.com/

About Keith Kloor

Keith Kloor is a NYC-based journalist, and an adjunct professor of journalism at New York University. His work has appeared in Slate, Science, Discover, and the Washington Post magazine, among other outlets. From 2000 to 2008, he was a senior editor at Audubon Magazine. In 2008-2009, he was a Fellow at the University of Colorado’s Center for Environmental Journalism, in Boulder, where he studied how a changing environment (including climate change) influenced prehistoric societies in the U.S. Southwest. He covers a wide range of topics, from conservation biology and biotechnology to urban planning and archaeology.


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