Monday, May 29, 2017

GMO Crops Could Expect a Brighter Future

Bringing home the harvest: GMO sugarcane could prove more productive than expected. (Image Credit: Jonathan Wilkins via Wikimedia Commons) Click to Enlarge.
One of the touchier areas of scientific research – in much of Europe, at least – is the genetic manipulation of food plants, seaweed and algae to try to produce more food or provide better rates of conversion into biofuels.  But across the Atlantic genetically-modified crops (GMOs) are increasingly a different story.

They are a deeply controversial subject because early versions of GM food crops had to be dosed in highly toxic chemicals, and claims of higher yields and better nutrition were unproven.  In some cases they caused severe environmental problems, and the European Union maintains a ban on many varieties to this day.

But in the US there has been more acceptance of GMOs as a way of extracting more money from farming, and scientists are encouraged to continue to develop new crops with modified genes.

Two global staples, sugarcane and soya, are being researched by teams from the University of Illinois.  One group at its College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences (ACES) has shown that sugarcane can be genetically engineered to produce oil in its leaves and stems for biodiesel production.  Surprisingly, the modified sugarcane plants also produced more sugar, which can be used for producing ethanol.

Bigger earners
To compete with traditional crops GMOs have to show they can be more profitable, and the Illinois scientists claim that their sugarcane would produce five times the income of soya and twice as much as corn.

Perhaps more importantly, this sugarcane can be grown on marginal lands in what are known as the Gulf states – Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and Florida.

Read more at GMO Crops Could Expect a Brighter Future

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