GeneWatch PR: New drought-tolerant corn welcomed (5th January 2011)

GeneWatch UK today welcomed news that new drought-tolerant corn (maize) has been developed by DuPont using conventional breeding methods. DuPont's new corn was announced today (1). Syngenta made a similar announcement in late December (2). Its corn was also developed using conventional breeding informed by new genetic information (known as 'marker assisted selection').

"Improved scientific knowledge has helped deliver better seeds" said GeneWatch UK's Director, Dr Helen Wallace. "Drought-tolerance is a complex trait and cannot be delivered by engineering a single gene into a plant. The false promises made for GM crops should be abandoned in favour of these welcome new conventionally bred varieties".

However, GeneWatch criticised Syngenta for stating that it will only market its new seed with two existing GM traits (herbicide tolerance and pesticide resistance) also included in the seed. US farmers are struggling to cope with herbicide tolerant 'superweeds' spreading across the US as a result of growing GM herbicide tolerant crops (3). Pest resistance is also developing as a result of the use of GM pest resistant crops.

"Patents on these GM traits will allow Syngenta to charge a premium for technology that does more harm than good", said Dr Wallace. "This is a cynical attempt to lock farmers into spiralling costs for expensive seeds and chemicals instead of making the new conventional variety widely available".

Genetically modified (GM) plants with new properties including drought- and salt-tolerance and the ability to fix nitrogen were first promised in a US Office of Technology Assessment report in 1981. Agricultural research was reorganised to focus on GM and companies were allowed to patent GM seeds. However, no such products have been delivered despite 30 years' investment in GM research, due to the multiple genetic factors involved in the survival of plants in harsh environments (4).

For further information contact: Dr Helen Wallace: 01298-24300 (office); 07903-311584 (mobile).

Notes for Editors
(1) Dow Jones Newswires:
(3) Farmers cope with Roundup-resistant weeds. New York Times. 3rd May 2010. On:
(4) Bioscience for Life? GeneWatch UK Report 2010. On:

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