Corn modified for drought resistance

Sept. 17, 2012 at 6:24 PM
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WOODLAND, Calif., Sept. 17 (UPI) -- Monsanto says it has received U.S. regulatory approval for a corn variety that is the first to be genetically modified for drought-resistant traits.

The St. Louis-based company says its DroughtGard variety will be able to help farmers cope with droughts like the one that has gripped much of the United States this growing season.

Other seed companies are already selling drought-tolerant corn varieties developed through conventional breeding, but Monsanto's is the first to have been genetically modified to survive drought, the Los Angeles Times reported Monday.

"Drought is definitely going to be one of the biggest challenges for our growers," said Jeff Schussler, senior research manager for Pioneer, the agribusiness arm of DuPont. "We are trying to create products for farmers to be prepared for that."

Monsanto's DroughtGard comes amid concerns about genetically modified organisms. In November, Californians will go to the polls to vote on Proposition 37, which would require foods to carry labels if they were genetically modified. Monsanto has donated millions of dollars to a group opposing the ballot measure, the Times reported.

"Trying to create drought-tolerant crops is not going to be easy to do," said Kent Bradford, director of the Seed Biotechnology Center at the University of California, Davis. "We certainly need all the tools [available] to do that, and that includes conventional breeding and adding transgenic traits. We don't need to stigmatize these approaches."

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