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2-Plants: Biotech acreage on the rise across U.S.

-------------------------------- GENET-news -------------------------------

TITLE:  Biotech acreage on the rise across U.S.
SOURCE: Capital Press, USA, by Scott A. Yates
DATE:   8 Jul 2005

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read the numbers at:
Cr Pr 2-5 (6-05)
National Agricultural Statistics Service USDA Washington, D.C.
Released June 30, 2005, by the National Agricultural Statistics Service
(NASS), Agricultural Statistics Board, U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Biotech acreage on the rise across U.S.

There are at least two things to say for certain about the National
Agricultural Statistics Service survey showing acreage for biotech crops
planted in the United States:

1. It's growing.

2. Wheat acreage is notably absent.

As part of the latest NASS acreage survey, farmers' use of biotechnology-
derived crops was detailed. The numbers aren't growing by leaps and
bounds lately, but they are growing.

In 2005, it's estimated that 52 percent of all the corn acreage in the
United States is planted to varieties that have been engineered for
insect or herbicide resistance, or both. The number is 79 percent for
upland cotton and 87 percent for soybean acreage.

The percentages ticked up only slightly in each category over the past
year, but since 2000, when NASS began reporting on biotech varieties, the
growth has been much steeper. That year, biotech corn accounted for 25
percent of the nation's acreage, cotton 61 percent and soybeans 54 percent.

In the Capital Press readership area, California is the only state with
any major acreage of an engineered crop. Fifty-three percent of the
state's cotton acreage, according to the survey, is grown with the aid of
a herbicide, insect or stacked gene variety.

When it comes to corn farmers giving the technology their vote of
approval, South Dakota is in the lead with 83 percent of the corn acreage
planted using biotech seed. Next is Nebraska, with 69 percent of its corn
acreage, Minnesota with 66 percent and Kansas with 63 percent. Acreage of
engineered varieties in Iowa, the nation's top corn producer, stands at
60 percent.

But it's in soybeans that the science is really taking off. Only 13
percent of the nation's oil seed crop acreage is planted to non-GMO
varieties. In this category, Mississippi is in the lead, with 96 percent
of the state's soybeans acreage planted to biotech varieties. South
Dakota is next, followed by Arkansas.

Except for California's cotton, there is an absence of widespread biotech
crop use in the West. NASS used a production cut off in selecting states
for enumeration in the biotech survey.

Wheat growers are finding their absence from the biotech list
problematic. Wheat acreage in some states has been affected by the spread
of biotech corn or soybeans.

Since Monsanto decided not to go ahead with its biotech wheat in 2003,
the National Association of Wheat Growers has moved from being agnostic
about the science to a true believer. The group's leadership fears wheat
being left an orphan crop if they miss out on the biotech revolution.
With the trend among other crops obvious, NAWG has embarked on a mission
to help pave the way for biotechnology in wheat.

Daren Coppock, chief executive officer for NAWG, said a withering
industry is not in anybody's interest.

"We have to find a way to board this train before it leaves us abandoned
at the station and the tracks are pulled up," he said, arguing that
technology adoption has always been a key component of competitive
advantage for U.S. wheat producers.

He compared GMOs with such milestone developments as inorganic
fertilizers, crop protection products, semi-dwarf varieties and new
reduced-tillage practices and equipment.

"Wheat is now losing acres to those crops which have embraced
biotechnology, and in so doing have improved their competitive position
against wheat for those acres. That trend will steepen when drought
tolerance is introduced in other crops," he said.

The industry, however, is not unanimous and the export arm of the
American grower, U.S. Wheat Associates, fears buyer rejection of biotech
wheat overseas.

Some buyers have indicated in surveys they would not purchase any wheat
from the United States if even a portion was grown using GMO varieties.

But buyer issues are only one part of what's holding up biotechnology in
the grain. The other is a company willing to risk the gauntlet
environmental organizations are sure to throw down against releasing an
engineered crop.

Until those issues are resolved, biotech wheat will not be a category in
any upcoming NASS survey.


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