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Biotech doesn't increase yields

June 09, 2008

Re "U.S. defends food policy," June 5

Your story perpetuates the fallacy, encouraged by the biotechnology industry, that genetic engineering increases crop yields. In fact, nearly all of the crops in the U.S. Department of Agriculture's database of approved genetically engineered varieties have been modified for resistance to certain insects or to tolerate applications of herbicides. None has been shown to increase intrinsic crop yields, nor do any have traits for drought tolerance. Biotechnologists are finding drought tolerance to be a major technical challenge.

Meanwhile, traditional farming systems have demonstrated their effectiveness in raising yields and improving drought tolerance; they should receive the lion's share of attention as a route to increasing food production.

In Africa, agro-ecological methods, fertilizer and improved soil, better grain storage and improved roads and irrigation should also be prioritized ahead of expensive, patented biotechnology seeds that so far have not helped to improve food availability.

Doug Gurian-Sherman

Senior Scientist, Union of Concerned Scientists



President Bush's policy of turning food crops into fuel to continue our global-warming lifestyle is helping to starve much of the world. This is yet another reason for other countries to dislike the United States. How about stopping the production of ethanol and diverting the resultant crop surpluses to starving nations?

Let the price of gasoline rise, and eventually Americans will conserve. Cheap fuel for your SUV is not a right. If you can't afford the cost, get a smaller car or try public transportation.

John Ovnick


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