Saturday, November 23, 2013

Another answer...

To the GMO controversy: mutagenesis. Instead of inserting other genes, just bombard plants with radiation. Kind of like how most superheroes are made. Think of evolution on steroids.

No, not making this up.
As opposition to genetically modified crops has spread across Europe and the world, leading chemical companies including BASF (BASFY) and DuPont (DD)have turned to mutagenesis—a technique that mimics the sun’s irradiation of plants—to create herbicide-resistant crops. The process, which faces almost no regulation, creates opportunities for companies to grab a bigger share of the $34 billion global commercial seed market. But some scientists say mutant crops are more likely to pose health risks than genetically modified ones.Mutagenesis isn’t new: Breeders have relied on it for decades to produce thousands of varieties of lettuce, oats, rice, and other crops. BASF today licenses its technologies to 40 of the world’s biggest seed companies, including DuPont and Switzerland’s Syngenta (SYENF), which in turn sell high volumes of mutant breeds, ranging from wheat to sunflowers, in markets that reject genetically engineered seeds. [More]

There is still some low level debate about safety, but because this is essentially the same path used by natural selection, and since mutant crops cannot be detected like GMO's it could be that companies like BASF are break the monopolistic market control of Monsanto, as well as enter markets (like wheat) that are still barred to GMO's.
Still, mutagenesis is gaining in popularity because it’s a far cheaper way to give crops new traits than the $150 million to $200 million that companies such as Monsanto pay to get a new GMO on the market. Mutant crops also face no labeling requirements or regulatory hurdles in most of the world.“These difficulties in getting a GMO to the market, we don’t have it in mutation breeding,” Lagoda said in an Oct. 16 phone interview.Breeders have registered more than 3,000 mutant varieties with Lagoda’s program, a partnership between the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization and the International Atomic Energy Agency. Those varieties are just “the tip of the iceberg” because many breeders actively avoid revealing how they create new plants, Lagoda said. [More]
On behalf of farmers everywhere looking at $400 seed prices, I say the more competition the better. I would drop Pioneer like a hot rock - despite my strong friendship with my dealer - if I could find a seed supplier who isn't engaged in cartel-like market manipulation.

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