Corn Commentary

Stop the Presses: Journal Gets it Right!

It’s great to see the Wall Street Journal run an article that puts the future of corn and ethanol in a good light. Sure, a few typical and unnecessary jabs were taken, but this column, based on an interview with a Syngenta exec, covers the bases well. The future of ag is bright, especially when you consider the global economy and the impact of technology.

The key snippet here is the final sentence: “Bottom line: It’s a good time to be an ag-science company, and even a better time to be a farmer.”

Biotech Education Efforts Paying off in Spain

Grains CouncilWhile the French were busy banning the production of biotech corn last week, their neighbors to the south were importing more US corn than they have in almost a decade.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Foreign and Agricultural Service reports that the United States sold 2.5 million bushels of corn for shipment to Spain the week ending January 11 - the first of this magnitude to Spain since 1998-99, according to U.S. Grains Council officials who say biotechnology has been the primary trade barrier causing Spain not to seek U.S. corn.

“Because the tight supply of feed grains has feed millers and producers in a severe price squeeze, the timing is right to try and educate the European Union’s grain industry about biotechnology and elicit their support in addressing policy,” said Dale Artho, U.S. Grains Council chairman. “They were especially receptive to the idea of relaxing the EU GMO (genetically modified organisms) policies for U.S. corn. We discussed how corn with plant technology attributes could be utilized in their milling process for feed export markets and how that would reduce the pressure on their domestic markets.”

Artho said Spain’s purchase of U.S. corn is a good sign that the Council’s education efforts are working and gives U.S. producers reason to be optimistic about the potential to export genetically enhanced feed grains to Europe.

Activists Get Their Way in France

When European activist wackos act like spoiled children, they get their way.

That’s basically what happened when French President Nicolas Sarkozy made a “political” decision this week to ban the only genetically modified crop grown in France, Monsanto 810 – better known here as YieldGard Corn Borer. The variety produces a naturally occurring toxin, Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt), that kills corn borers.

“It does not mean that France does not participate in GMO research,” Sarkozy said. “It simply means that with the principle of precaution at stake, I am making a major political decision to carry our country to the forefront of the debate on the environment.”

Credit for the decision can be given, at least in part, to a high-profile activist who went on a hunger strike January 3 to demand a year-long ban on GMO crops. Anti-globalization activist and farmer Jose Bove has been on a rampage against GMOs, and even “been convicted of ripping up GM crops in southern France.” Sounds like a spoiled kid to me.

The decision was welcomed by Greenpeace activists, more spoiled children who in March dumped a ton of GMO corn at the door of Sarkozy’s campaign headquarters in Paris. (Question: Where did they get it? Did they grow it themselves, buy it - or rip it up out of someone’s field?)

During the campaign last year, Sarkozy’s opponents both said they would back a moratorium on GMO corn, while Sarkozy said he was “skeptical about the real benefits of GMOs” but that open-field crop trials should continue for research purposes, to keep open the option of using GM crops “once all safety conditions have been met.”

This week, after a controversial report that indicated a few scientists thought MON810 might have a negative impact on wildlife, Sarkozy enacted the ban by invoking “a safeguard clause” which allows a member state of the EU to refuse the sale of a product permitted across the 27-nation bloc.

Green Party French farmers like Bove (pictured on the right in the media spotlight) are pleased and eating again, but the head of the country’s largest farmers union called the announcement “surprising and shocking. The decision was very political to please a number of people including some on a hunger strike.”

Last year, Monsanto’s 810 corn made up less than one percent of all the corn grown in France. The president of AGPM, a French association of corn growers, said that France can survive without GMOs, “but it means we will protect our crops solely by chemical means and take the risk of depending on more imports in the future.”

Meanwhile, Monsanto will consider all of its options, including legal remedies. Monsanto spokesman Jonathan Ramsay said, “Monsanto will defend our customers’ right to choose.” So, it’s not over yet, but it still sends a message to wackos that hunger strikes, tearing up crops and dumping corn on the street gets them their way.

(Sources: Truth about Trade & Technology, and AFP)

Monsanto Renewable Fuels YouTube Video

Consumers have a growing amount of online information that provides them with good science based information to make better choices, especially when it comes to new energy choices. We’re going to point to them whenever and wherever we find them.

Take for example a YouTube video from Monsanto that helps provide some positive perspective for food and fuel. It’s titled, “Renewable Fuels: From Farm To Fuel Pump.” This 6 minute video reviews how “Ethanol and Biodiesel can offer benefits to consumers and farmers.” The video features comments from NCGA’s CEO Rick Tolman who talks about increasing yields and the productivity of America’s corn growers.

Genetically Engineered Sustainability

GMO CropsThis photo from the image library of the U.S. Department of Agriculture shows crops or products that have either already been genetically engineered or are involved in ongoing or planned transgenic studies.

Biotechnology and genetic engineering are often a source of controversy because of fears that modifying crops genetically could impact human health or biodiversity or something. But a recent study indicates that genetically modified crops might actually help contribute to increased productivity in sustainable agriculture.

The study published in the June 8 issue of the journal Science, analyzes for the first time environmental impact data from field experiments all over the world, involving corn and cotton plants with a Bt gene inserted for its insecticidal properties.

In an analysis of 42 field experiments, scientists found that this particular modification, which causes the plant to produce an insecticide internally, can have an environmental benefit because large-scale insecticide spraying can be avoided. Organisms such as ladybird beetles, earthworms, and bees in locales with “Bt crops” fared better in field trials than those within locales treated with chemical insecticides.

Read more from ScienceDaily.

What is kind of ironic about the whole genetic engineering/biotech controversy is that the same people who have problems with genetically modified crops often have no problem with the concept of manufacturing embryos to use their stem cells for research to find “cures” for diseases or conditions - which is essentially genetic engineering on a human level. California is a good example of that kind of thinking, where they want to ban farmers from planting GM strawberries, while at the same time provide taxpayer dollars for embryonic stem cell research.

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