Saturday, 11 October 2014

...of Mushrooms and Monsanto

Monsanto are, to some, the agents of evil, devils incarnate who wish either to destroy the planet with their 'frankenfoods' or exploiting the poor with their seed patents. However, they also conduct some of the research that means we'll be able to feed the 9 billion humans littering the planet by 2050. And here's one of the ways they'll be doing that - with mushrooms:

"For 20 years or more, the multinationals like Monsanto have been talking about producing plants that are resistant to temperature, drought and salt by genetic modification," Rodriguez said. "They have had limited success."

But Monsanto late 2013 announced a $US300 million ($A324.59 million) "BioAg Alliance" with Novozymes of Denmark to focus on microbial products, including fungi and bacteria, for increasing crop yields.

Griffith said Monsanto will test microbial strains in more than a half-million plots in 2015 and that number will expand exponentially.

"These things have been around for millennia," Griffith said. "Our science is finally catching up. There are billions of microbes in a teaspoon of soil. But how do you know which ones are beneficial and serve a specific purpose? With our BioAg Alliance we're trying to make good decisions based on DNA in the lab to identify which product candidates we can get out in the field."

This is a big switch for agribusiness moving us away from genetic modification (Monsanto have not been able to get this to work in creating the drought resistance that may be needed to respond to climate change). Instead we're looking at that ancient partnership between fungi and plants, the partnership that some think was an important factor in allowing plants to migrate from sea to land.

Over our history the development of agriculture - the industrial process we use to feed ourselves - has been closely linked to economic interests and commerce. It's great to see that, just as with other major advances in feeding the world, Monsanto and other science-based businesses continue to contribute new and better products that help meet our need for good, cheap food.



Anonymous said...

You might be well-advised to check your researchers: plants are becoming increasingly drought-resistant because increasing CO2 levels ensure that the plant stoma are smaller, thus the planet is actually greening, and quite naturally. Climate change? Ah, perhaps you mean global warming, which, as you will know, it isn’t. “Climate change” is the answer to that; “climate” is a suitable amorphous concept, and is utterly unmeasurable, as climat-o-meters have yet to be developed.

Radical Rodent

asquith said...

The biggest qualm I have is that a field of GM crops would consist solely of said crop, ultra-efficiently farmed, but without any trace of biodiversity. And that would be the death knell for several plant and animal species that currently exist happily enough on farmland. Even if we reduced the amount of total land being farmed, that would still be there.

That is the only real grievance I have, but I've yet to see it actually be addressed by anyone.

asquith said...

I appear to have just repeated what I always say without considering the issue at hand. Perhaps you can accept the fact that it's just after dinner as an excuse :)