Scientists look at genetic crops to beat drought |

Scientists look at genetic crops to beat drought

FORT COLLINS – Colorado scientists are looking at genetically modified crops as a way farmers can beat the drought as worries continue about the safety of eating altered foods.

Colorado State University professor Phil Westra says attitudes are changing toward crops that have been altered to resist drought and pests because of a continuing drought that has slashed harvests and increased the price of food.

Westra said a new type of drought-resistant corn was introduced this year that is already showing promise.

“Obviously, it’s going to be important to be able to have those varieties in the future if nobody knows if this is going to be a one-year, two-year, five-year, 10-year drought. If the drought continues for 10 years, you’re probably going to see a lot more sympathy for genetic engineering than if we had all kinds of rain and all kinds of water,” Westra said.

The genetically modified foods are showing up in everything from cereal to eggs, and no warning label is required.

According to KMGH-TV ( ), corn and sugar beets, two of the largest crops in Colorado, are already genetically altered and used by many farmers.

Dave Georgis, who runs a program promoting small farms in Boulder County, said there is no proof genetically altered crops will be able to use less water, and he questioned the nutritional value of crops that are being artificially maintained. Large farms can afford to experiment, but small farmers can’t take that risk, he said.

“We reject the notion that these crops can be grown side-by-side,” Georgis said.

Farmer Dave Eckhardt said this year’s harvest would have been worse without limited use of “genetically modified organisms” in crops, also known as GMOs.

In addition to health concerns, opponents are worried that seeds from genetic crops will be dispersed and make their way into organic crops, resulting in mutations no one can predict or control.

Last year, Georgis joined a political fight in Boulder County over use of altered crops.

County commissioner Will Toor said surveys showed residents split over their use.

In response, Boulder County commissioners approved a compromise that allows GMO corn and sugar beets but does not allow GMO alfalfa. They also ruled that GMOs can only be grown for two years out of a five-year period on any specific plot.

Information from: KMGH-TV,

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