Crop Tech Corner

More GM Crops Hit Global Market

Emily Unglesbee
By  Emily Unglesbee , DTN Staff Reporter
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Look for the slice of Arctic apples in North American markets in 2017, after the GM apple variety wrapped up its first commercial harvest in 2016. (DTN photo illustration by Nick Scalise)

ROCKVILLE, Md. (DTN) -- This bi-monthly column condenses the latest news in the field of crop technology, research and products.

GM APPLES HEADED TO MARKET

This year has been a tough one for the U.S. Take heart, Americans, in the knowledge that 2017 will bring at least one exciting new comfort -- apples that don't brown after you slice them.

The Arctic Golden apple variety has wrapped up its first commercial harvest this fall, according to Okanagan Specialty Fruits, the biotech company that developed it. The Arctic apple was developed with a genetic engineering technique called RNAi, which allowed scientists to silence the group of genes responsible for the browning effect. The apples will be sold in test markets across North America in early 2017, the company said in a press release. They hope to scale up production quickly. Seventy-thousand Arctic Granny and Arctic Golden trees were planted by 2016, and the company has contracts out for 300,000 trees in 2017 and 500,000 in 2018. Once they reach maturity, these Arctic apple trees should produce up to 30 million pounds of apples annually.

The GM apple variety has had a 20-year road to commercialization. After the research required to produce them, the apple had to secure approval and deregulation from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency and Health Canada.

For more information, see the press release here: http://bit.ly/… and the USDA's examination of the Arctic apple's safety here: http://bit.ly/….

GM CORN MAKES INROADS IN AFRICA

GM corn is making inroads in the African continent, despite controversy and regulatory delays. This year, seed companies in South Africa will begin selling royalty-free GM corn hybrids with drought-tolerant and insect-resistant traits, according to a press release from the Cornell Alliance for Science. Kenya is expected to do the same next year. Uganda has completed field trials for the GM varieties, and Mozambique has approved field trials of GM corn and may launch them as early as this year. Finally, Tanzania planted its first GM corn trials this fall, using a drought-tolerant variety. These GM corn hybrids were developed by the Water Efficient Maize for Africa project, known as WEMA, which is funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Howard G. Buffett Foundation and United States Agency for International Development (USAID).

These African GM corn seed sales and field trials have not come easily -- many of the countries have faced resistance from anti-GMO activists and still lack crucial parts of a regulatory framework to oversee and commercialize these hybrids.

For more information, see the press release here: http://bit.ly/….

STUDY WEIGHS THE ENVIRONMENTAL EFFECTS OF GMOS

A University of Virginia economist has wrapped up the largest single study of the environmental effects of GM corn and soybeans in the U.S. With help from economists at Kansas State University, Iowa State University and Michigan State University, Federico Ciliberto analyzed annual survey data from more than 5,000 corn and 5,000 soybean farmers over a 14-year span, 1998 to 2011.

Insect-resistant traits (Bt corn hybrids) were the only clear environmental winner -- the study showed they decreased insecticide use by farmer adopters by 11.2%. Ciliberto attributed part of this success to the use of refuges in corn fields, which help slow the development and spread of Bt-resistant insects.

Herbicide-resistant traits performed less admirably. Although corn farmers using these traits reported a drop of 1.3% in herbicide use over 13 years, soybean farmers who adopted these traits saw a 28% increase in herbicide use. In the last five years (2006 to 2011), both corn and soybean farmers' herbicide use increased. The problem? The widespread development of herbicide-resistant weeds, in particular glyphosate-resistance.

See the study here: http://bit.ly/….

Emily Unglesbee can be reached at emily.unglesbee@dtn.com

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(PS/AG)

Emily Unglesbee