1995 -- 4%
1996 -- 16%
1997 -- 4%
1998 -- 13
Four-year average -- 9%
They further state the average added seed cost for high-oil varieties was
about $0.12 per bushel harvested. This cost estimate includes the premium
paid for the seed, the yield drag, and the higher seeding rates required.
Hence, growers would need at least a $0.12 premium to break even relative
to growing conventional corn. Moreover, the authors point out this assumes
no cost for segregation and identity-preservation.
I share this data not to question the possibility that high-oil varieties
can or do deliver net economic benefits, but to simply reinforce the fact
that most modifications of plants that result in a substantial change in
the content of some desirable, basic (or newly introduced) component of the
plant come at some physiological cost to the plant, and that yield drag is
one manifestation of such costs.
This general rule applies equally to classical plant breeding and GMOs,
although there is some evidence that yields and performance may be more
erratic and unstable in the case of some GMO varieties. Apparently,
certain genes inserted into some elite varieties tend to not be as stable
as once hoped. As a result, plants can experience unanticipated
developmental or immune system problems in response to certain combinations
of environmental factors and pest pressure. Understanding and overcoming
the sources of such instability in gene expression remains a major, ongoing
challenge for genetic engineers and seed companies, and an area where new
genetic techniques, markers, and genomics will surely make a big difference.
I am aware of a study done at Iowa State that takes the high-oil corn
example the next step, assessing the net economic costs and benefits after
all the various adjustments and price responses occur in the livestock feed
industry. I will post a summary in due course and would welcome hearing of
other such analyses at other institutions.
Charles Benbrook CU FQPA site www.ecologic-ipm.com
Benbrook Consulting Services Ag BioTech InfoNet www.biotech-info.net
5085 Upper Pack River Road IPM site www.pmac.net
Sandpoint, Idaho 83864
208-263-5236 (Voice) 208-263-7342 (Fax)
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