News / USA

    Gene-Modified Corn Designed to Resist Drought

    SUTTON, Nebraska — Walking through Bruce Trautman's cornfields near drought-hit Sutton, Nebraska, you could walk right by Monsanto's genetically-modified, drought-tolerant varieties and not notice a difference.
     
    With about a third less rainfall this season, the leaves are turning brown just like their conventional neighbors.
     
    But Trautman peels back the husks to show ears of modified corn that look bigger, with more kernels than the others.
     
    With a month or so to go before harvest, more hot, dry weather may still take its toll, but, Trautman says, "to see this much difference at this point in time is exceptional."
     
    Risk of drought growing
    Bruce Trautman grows conventional and genetically modified drought-tolerant corn near Sutton, Nebraska, August 2012 (S. Baragona / VOA).Bruce Trautman grows conventional and genetically modified drought-tolerant corn near Sutton, Nebraska, August 2012 (S. Baragona / VOA).
    x
    Bruce Trautman grows conventional and genetically modified drought-tolerant corn near Sutton, Nebraska, August 2012 (S. Baragona / VOA).
    Bruce Trautman grows conventional and genetically modified drought-tolerant corn near Sutton, Nebraska, August 2012 (S. Baragona / VOA).
    While other researchers and companies are using conventional techniques to improve drought tolerance, Monsanto expects to be the first company on the market with genetically-modified varieties of corn better able to handle the dry weather.

    This year's drought across the corn-growing region of the United States has been the worst in decades. But experts say intense droughts are becoming more likely worldwide with climate change.
     
    Trautman is one of about 250 U.S. farmers field-testing Monsanto's new corn. The main difference, according to Monsanto's Mark Edge, comes down to one gene.
     
    Cellular jam resistance
     
    "The gene is actually found in soil bacteria," Edge says. "It's a common soil bacteria. And what it does for the bacteria is help it survive through that stress."
     
    Added to the corn plant, the gene helps it through drought by keeping its cellular machinery from jamming. The strings of chemical code that carry instructions to the cell's protein-building machines can get tangled up under stress. Adding the bacterial gene helps keep those strings untangled and the machinery running smoothly.
     
    It seems to be helping Bruce Trautman's corn. But that is just one field, and the season is not over yet, so Edge is cautious.
     
    "Growers are very excited about it, but we need to wait until the yields come in to get a better evaluation of that," he says.
     
    A modest step forward
     
    Skeptics, such as Doug Gurian-Sherman with the Union of Concerned Scientists, do not expect big improvements from the genetically-modified corn.
     
    "It's a step forward, but it's very, very modest," he says. And in severe droughts, the added gene may not help much.
     
    "There are more cost-effective and more reliable, at this point, ways of improving things like drought tolerance," Gurian-Sherman says, such as conventional crop breeding and better soil management. "And I think we need to put more of our effort into those areas."
     
    Although he does not have any immediate safety concerns, he says testing should be more rigorous.
     
    'A very powerful tool'
     
    Edge says the crops have been tested and regulators have approved them, and he agrees conventional breeding and soil management are important.
     
    "There isn't one thing that's going to address drought," he says. "It's a combination of things. And this is a very powerful tool."
     
    Farmers will see just how powerful when the harvest comes in this fall.
     

    You May Like

    Turkey, US Splits Deepen Over Support for Kurdish Militants

    Ankara summons American ambassador to protest remarks by State Department spokesman who said Washington does not consider Syria's Kurdish Democracy Union Party (PYD) a terrorist organization

    Obama Seeking $19 Billion for National Cybersecurity

    Move, touted as attempt to build broad, cohesive federal response to cyberthreats, calls for increase in cybersecurity spending across all government agencies

    Video Foreign Policy Weighs Heavy for Some US Voters

    VOA talks to protesters in Manchester, New Hampshire, who sound off on foreign policy issues such as the Guantanamo Bay prison, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the wars in Iraq, Syria and Yemen

    This forum has been closed.
    Comments
         
    There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Valentine's Day Stinks for Lebanese Clownsi
    X
    February 09, 2016 8:04 PM
    This weekend, on Valentine's Day in Lebanon, love is not the only thing in the air. More than half a year after the country's trash crisis began, the stink of uncollected garbage remains on the streets. Step forward "Clown Me In," a group of clowns who use their skills for activism. Before the most romantic day of the year the clowns have released their unusual take on love in Lebanon -- in a bid to keep the pressure up and get the trash off the streets. John Owens reports from Beirut.
    Video

    Video Valentine's Day Stinks for Lebanese Clowns

    This weekend, on Valentine's Day in Lebanon, love is not the only thing in the air. More than half a year after the country's trash crisis began, the stink of uncollected garbage remains on the streets. Step forward "Clown Me In," a group of clowns who use their skills for activism. Before the most romantic day of the year the clowns have released their unusual take on love in Lebanon -- in a bid to keep the pressure up and get the trash off the streets. John Owens reports from Beirut.
    Video

    Video Rocky Year Ahead for Nigeria Amid Oil Price Crash

    The global fall in the price of oil has rattled the economies of many petroleum exporters, and Africa’s oil king Nigeria is no exception. As Chris Stein reports from Lagos, analysts are predicting a rough year ahead for the continent’s top producer of crude.
    Video

    Video Foreign Policy Weighs Heavy for Some US Voters

    VOA talks to protesters in Manchester, New Hampshire who sound off on foreign policy issues such as the Guantanamo Bay Prison, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Middle East Affairs and national security.
    Video

    Video 'No Means No' Program Targets Sexual Violence in Kenya

    The organizers of an initiative to reduce and stop rape in the informal settlements around Kenya's capital say their program is having marked success. Girls are taking self-defense classes while the boys are learning how to protect the girls and respect them. Lenny Ruvaga reports from Nairobi.
    Video

    Video New Hampshire Voters Are Independent, Mindful of History

    Once every four years, the northeastern state of New Hampshire becomes the center of the U.S. political universe with its first-in-the-nation presidential primary. What's unusual about New Hampshire is how seriously the voters take their role and the responsibility of being among the first to weigh in on the candidates.
    Video

    Video Chocolate Lovers Get a Sweet History Lesson

    Observed in many countries around the world, Valentine’s Day is sometimes celebrated with chocolate festivals. But at a festival near Washington, the visitors experience a bit more than a sugar rush. They go on a sweet journey through history. VOA’s June Soh takes us to the festival.
    Video

    Video 'Smart' Bandages Could Heal Wounds More Quickly

    Simple bandages are usually seen as the first line of attack in healing small to moderate wounds and burns. But scientists say new synthetic materials with embedded microsensors could turn bandages into a much more valuable tool for emergency physicians. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Bhutanese Refugees in New Hampshire Closely Watching Primary Election

    They fled their country and lived in refugee camps in neighboring Nepal for decades before being resettled in the northeastern U.S. state of New Hampshire -- now the focus of the U.S. presidential contest. VOA correspondent Aru Pande spoke with members of the Bhutanese community, including new American citizens, about the campaign and the strong anti-immigrant rhetoric of some of the candidates.
    Video

    Video Researchers Use 3-D Printer to Produce Transplantable Body Parts

    Human organ transplants have become fairly common around the world in the past few decades. Researchers at various universities are coordinating their efforts to find solutions -- including teams at the University of Pennsylvania and Rice University in Houston that are experimenting with a 3-D printer -- to make blood vessels and other structures for implant. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Houston, they are also using these artificial body parts to seek ways of defeating cancerous tumors.
    Video

    Video Helping the Blind 'See' Great Art

    There are 285 million blind and visually impaired people in the world who are unable to enjoy visual art at a museum. One New York photographer is trying to fix this situation by making tangible copies of the world’s masterpieces. VOA correspondent Victoria Kupchinetsky was there as visually impaired people got a feel for great art. Joy Wagner narrates her report.
    Video

    Video German Artists to Memorialize Refugees With Life Jacket Exhibit

    Sold in every kind of shop in some Turkish port towns, life jackets have become a symbol of the refugee crisis that brought a million people to Europe in 2015.  On the shores of Lesbos, Greece, German artists collect discarded life jackets as they prepare an art installation they plan to display in Germany.  For VOA, Hamada Elrasam has this report from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video E-readers Help Ease Africa's Book Shortage

    Millions of people in Africa can't read, and there's a chronic shortage of books. A non-profit organization called Worldreader is trying to help change all that one e-reader at a time. VOA’s Deborah Block tells us about a girls' school in Nairobi, Kenya where Worldreader is making a difference.
    Video

    Video Genius Lets World Share Its Knowledge

    Inspired by crowdsourcing companies like Wikipedia, Genius allows anyone to edit anything on the web, using its web annotation tool
    Video

    Video In Philippines, Mixed Feelings About Greater US Military Presence

    In the Philippines, some who will be directly affected by a recent Supreme Court decision clearing the way for more United States troop visits are having mixed reactions.  The increased rotations come at a time when the Philippines is trying to build up its military in the face of growing maritime assertiveness from China.  From Bahile, Palawan on the coast of the South China Sea, Simone Orendain has this story.