The next genetic revolution?
Robin Maynard & Pat Thomas
29th March, 2007
We didn’t want GM on your table, but the crucial question now is, will we allow it in our tanks? Robin Maynard and Pat Thomas report
n recent years, as horror headlines about genetically modified (GM) crops have vanished from the mainstream media, it may have seemed as if those battling to stop them being produced had won.
In reality, the lack of GM fanfare has been little more than a quiet moment before the storm. The ability of biotech companies like Monsanto and Syngenta to improve agricultural production is viewed as a lynchpin in the success or failure of the biofuels revolution. If the biotech industry can cleverly reposition GM crops as a non-food, industrial ‘green’ energy commodity, it might just succeed in persuading an otherwise reluctant public that GM is a good thing.
Biotech companies aim to do this in two ways. The first is the genetic modification of crops such as corn, to increase drought resistance and yield and to reduce the cost or increase the efficiency of ethanol production. The second is the creation of powerful enzymes that will efficiently convert crop waste or plants such as switchgrass, which consists largely of hard-to-break-down cellulose, into ethanol.
It is estimated that it will take 10 to 15 years of research and development work to make the latter...
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