Thursday, February 21, 2013

Cutting losses, not boosting yield, is biggest value of GMO corn

Cutting losses, not boosting yield, is biggest value of GMO corn, UW researchers say - Agri-View 

While there’s no end of robust and heated conversation about genetically modified foods, there are strikingly few comprehensive studies that put a numeric value on the costs and benefits.

Now, there’s more to talk about.
By analyzing two decades worth of corn yield data from Wisconsin, a team of UW-Madison researchers has quantified the impact that various popular transgenes have on grain yield and production risk compared to conventional corn. Their analysis, published online in a Nature Biotechnology correspondence article on Feb. 7, confirms the general understanding that the major benefit of genetically modified (GM) corn doesn’t come from increasing yields in average or good years, but from reducing losses during bad ones.

“For the first time we have an estimate of what genetically modified hybrids mean as far as value for the farmer,” says UW-Madison and UW-Extension corn agronomist Joe Lauer, who led the study.

Lauer, who is also a UW-Extension corn agronomist, has been gathering corn yield and other data for the past 20 years as part of the Wisconsin Corn Hybrid Performance Trials, a project he directs. Each year, his team tests about 500 different hybrid corn varieties at more than a dozen sites around the state with the goal of providing unbiased performance comparisons of hybrid seed corn for the state’s farmers. When GM hybrids became available in 1996, Lauer started including them in the trials.

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