Could genetic modification be the only way to save our food during the drought-full future? The Scientific American reports:
Climate change has yet to diminish crop yields in the U.S. corn belt but scientists expect drought to become more common due to global warming in coming years. That could impact everything from the price of food to the price of fuel planet-wide. As a result, for the last several years agribusiness giants like Monsanto, Pioneer and Syngenta have been pursuing genetic modification to enable the corn plant to thrive even without enough rain. And now the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is considering approving a new corn hybrid genetically engineered to thrive on less water—the first time such a corn strain would be available.
“Working on something like drought is more complex than introducing a trait like insect resistance,” says plant breeder Bob Reiter, vice president of biotechnology at Monsanto, the company seeking approval for the new strain. “We have screened through thousands of genes in the past several years, more than in the entire history for the herbicide-resistant or insect protection.”
Monsanto researchers, working with German chemical giant BASF Corp., settled on a gene called “cold shock protein B” that is native to the microbe known as Bacillus subtilis, a soil bacteria whose special skill is to shut down, for years if need be, when environmental conditions such as drought would otherwise kill it. The new gene won’t confer that capability to corn but rather will help to maintain normal growth even when the crop is provided with less water than normal.
[Continues at Scientific American]