Is Genetically Modified Corn the Answer to the Midwest’s Drought?

By Chris K, Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Corn Genetically Modified Organism Is Genetically Modified Corn the Answer to the Midwests Drought?This week’s report from Co.Exist shows that in order to combat the unforgiving droughts throughout the United State’s farmland, dry farming is once again on the rise.

The Process of Dry Farming

During the onslaught of the nation’s rainy season, farmers break up the water saturated soil. Then, the top few inches of soil are compacted with a roller in order to create a dust mulch, or dry crust. This mulch prevents the moisture from evaporating. Instead of irrigating, the crops that are planted in this specially prepared soil feed off the internal moisture. The nutrients and sugars are concentrated due to the water stress. In turn, the crops receive an extra boost of flavor. However, industrial farming yields are usually 33 percent more than those from dry farming.

Drought Resistant Seeds

Monsanto, known for its arguable stance against DNA paternity testing in genetically modified foods, has a theory for fighting against the current water shortage. This biotechnological company is testing genetically modified corn seeds that resist drought. Since the modified corn extracts water from the soil at a more gradual pace, it requires less moisture. The Washington Post states that an exclusive number of farmers have put the experimental strain to the test this year; a wider release is planned for 2013.

Syngeta and DuPont have also formulated new strains of drought resistant corn. But these agricultural biotechnology companies state their seeds are simply hybrids that utilize corn’s natural characteristics.

Concerns Over Monsanto’s Genetically Modified Corn

Monsanto’s drought-resistant corn seeds have partially contributed to the company’s 24 percent rise in shares over the past year. However, there are some naysayers in regards to the company’s methodology. No modified corn seed has been on a large scale in actual environmental conditions. And the company’s claims are tentative, stating that while the seeds will not perform spectacularly during droughts, they may grow just more efficiently enough to survive until another rainfall occurs.

If these seeds grow as promised, they can be utilized during low to moderate drought intensities. However, they may lack the ability to flourish in the presently dry conditions of the western and central United States.

The Fight Against Climate Change

Pro-active measures are the key against the effects of climate change. But regardless of the current climate conditions, the farmers and citizens of the United States need to financially support their families and have food on their tables. Perhaps the best defense against the farmland’s precipitation loss is time-tested methods in conjunction with new seed technologies.

Image Credit: Sasakei

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