GENTECH archive 8.96-97

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Monsanto Goes Green?



      By Leila Corcoran 

    TAMPA, Fla., March 2 (Reuter) - American farmers are embracing
``biotech'' crops as the wave of the future, confident they can woo sceptics
at home and abroad. 

    ``Biotechnology is revolutionising agriculture,'' U.S. Agriculture
Secretary Dan Glickman told thousands of producers who met here for three
days at a joint convention of the National Corn Growers Association and the
American Soybean Association. 

    New genetically-altered soybeans and corn are being lapped up by American
farmers seeking to raise yields and cut costs by using less pesticides.
Policymakers say biotech products are the key to meeting world food needs. 

    ``We need to do more to educate people, to get them confident in our
science-based review process and then raise the awareness of the promise of
biotechnology to protect our environment and feed our people,'' Glickman
said. 

    Agribusinesses are going full throttle on research and development.
Officials at DuPont Agricultural Products predicted biotechnolgy would become
a very big part of the company's $2.5 billion global business in the years
ahead. 

    ``We have a positive story to tell. This industry is just at the
beginning,'' DuPont's Terry McDaniel said. 

    Monsanto Co., creator of the herbicide-resistant ``Roundup Ready''
soybean, estimates those beans will be planted in some 8 million to 10
million acres this season, or about 15 percent of total U.S. soybean acreage.


    That's up sharply from about a million acres in 1996, the first year the
biotech product hit the market. 

    Illinois farmer Bill Voorhees said he plans to plant eight times the
amount of Roundup Ready soybeans this year as he did last year. ``I'm not
leery of biotech. I think it's a good thing, provided the Europeans are going
to buy them,'' he said. 

    The European Union has been approving imports of genetically-altered
crops on a case-by-case basis. Roundup Ready beans and Ciba-Geigy's Bt corn,
which resists a pest called the European corn borer, have been given the
go-ahead. 

    Last month, however, the French government banned its farmers from
growing genetically-altered corn, saying its long-term effects had not been
determined. On a recent visit to Rome for a world hunger conference, Glickman
was pelted with grain by anti-biotech protestors. 

    In the United States, consumer groups want biotech products labelled, at
least. 

    ``Consumers want to be able to distinguish in the marketplace between
products which are bio-engineered and those which are the way nature designed
them,'' said Caroline Smith DeWaal of the Centre for Science in the Public
Interest. 

    Biotech crops in the pipeline will enhance plant value. DuPont will grow
a soybean in Iowa this summer that produces an oil that lasts longer and is
lower in saturated fats. 

    Farmers will be able to produce foods that are better tasting and more
nutritious through biotechnology, said David Erickson, head of the American
Soybean Association. 

    ``I don't know how you can be against something that holds such potential
for an industry as what biotechnology holds for agriculture,'' he said. 

    Financial considerations also underpin the great leap forward. Last
year's legislative overhaul of U.S. farm policy removed almost all federal
controls on what farmers could grow but also peeled away much of the federal
safety net. 

    ``The American farmer under the new farm bill has to become more
productive and biotechnology is simply a tool to help him get there,'' said
Harold Davis, manager for seed and genetics at Terra International Inc. in
Sioux City, Iowa. 

16:21 03-02-97