The most severe US drought in more than 50 years is shining a light on new developments in corn seeds that are sure to stir more debate both domestically and overseas about the use of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) to meet the planet’s food needs over the coming decades. Corn developed by Monsanto Co. (NYSE: MON) and the Pioneer subsidiary of E.I. du Pont de Nemours and Co. (NYSE: DD) are already growing in test plots in the US.
Whether the new seeds will prove successful remains to be seen. DuPont, which tested eight versions of its AquaMax corn seeds last year, said the plants boosted yields by 7%, according to a report in the Washington Post. A study by the Union of Concerned Scientists argues that yields increase about 1% a year with the GMO seeds, about the same amount as a combination of new farming methods and conventionally bred seeds.
Climate change is likely to be cause more frequent and more severe droughts over the next few decades. To feed the more than 7 billion inhabitants of the planet in conditions that seem sure to be considerably different from what they have been in the past may rank next to a shortage of fresh water as the biggest challenge the world faces in this century.