AgBioView - http://www.agbioworld.org
* Seeds of Opportunity - The Role of Biotechnology in Agriculture
* Move to Curb Biotech Crops Ignores Poor, U.N. Finds
* Poor countries urged to upgrade food safety
* Bt Or Not Bt, That Is The Question
* Delaying tactics
* Study Shows Altered Cotton Aids Farmers, Environment
* Case Studies in Benefits and Risks of Agricultural Biotechnology:
Roundup Ready Soybeans and Bt Field Corn
* A Dossier on Biotechnology
* Pests attack genetically modified cotton
* Guess What's in Your Dinner
Seeds of Opportunity - The Role of Biotechnology in Agriculture
Conference 31st May and 1st June 2001
Available Now - Conference Highlights On-line
Speaker transcripts and video highlights from the Seeds of Opportunity
conference are now available online. Click on the link below to review the
papers presented and witness the key speeches and Q&A sessions from this
popular and successful conference.
Agricultural biotechnology is probably the most contentious food issue
facing the UK and Europe. The "Seeds of Opportunity" conference brought
together leading international figures in agricultural biotechnology in
order to demystify this technology and to discuss its potential advantages
The conference was broken into three sections: (1) the environment; (2)
the consumer; and (3) the developing world and "pharming." To keep the
speakers on their toes, commentary was given at the end of each section by
a distinguished journalist.
Move to Curb Biotech Crops Ignores Poor, U.N. Finds
New York Times
By BARBARA CROSSETTE
July 8, 2001
UNITED NATIONS, July 6 ? Opposition in richer countries to genetically
modified crops may set back the ability of the poorest nations to feed
growing populations, according to a new United Nations survey.
A movement against these crops, genetically changed for various reasons ?
including higher yield, more nutritional value and pest or disease control
? is strongest among Western Europeans and to some extent Americans.
"The current debate in Europe and the United States over genetically
modified crops mostly ignores the concerns and needs of the developing
world," according to the survey, the Human Development Report 2001. It is
published by the United Nations Development Program and will be released
on Tuesday in Mexico City.
"Western consumers who do not face food shortages or nutritional
deficiencies or work in the fields are more likely to focus on food safety
and the potential loss of biodiversity," the report states, but "farming
communities in developing countries are more likely to focus on
potentially higher yields and greater nutritional value, and on the
reduced need to spray pesticides that can damage the soil and sicken
The report draws a comparison to successful Western-led efforts to ban the
use of the industrial pesticide DDT worldwide, which has allowed a
resurgent population of mosquitoes to devastate tropical countries with
several virulent strains of malaria.
Still, the United Nations remains concerned about the consequences of
genetic advancements, too. In Geneva on Friday, the World Health
Organization and the Food and Agriculture Organization jointly recommended
that governments test all genetically modified organisms before they enter
the market, looking especially for the potential to cause allergic
Mark Malloch Brown, administrator of the United Nations Development
Program, which publishes the 11-year-old annual survey, said the report
moved in a new direction this year by challenging some cherished opinions
about what the third world needs. The 2001 report looks at three areas ?
food, medicine and information systems ? where high-technology can be made
relevant and useful to poor countries, as long as risks are well managed.
Mr. Malloch Brown recommended a closer look at recent history and a move
away from what he called "an anti-technology bias." He added that advances
in food production ? the "green revolution" of the early postcolonial
years ? were based on crop science.
Turning to information technology, the report created a new technology
achievement index that ranks countries in four categories: leaders,
potential leaders, dynamic adopters and the marginalized. The new index
offers some surprising findings based on factors such as inducements to
innovation, prevalence of old technologies like telephones and general
While India, for example, has islands of high technology, it ranks at the
bottom of the dynamic adopters category, just above marginalization ? not
only well below China by virtually every measure, but also far behind
Southeast Asia, Latin American and parts of Africa and the Arab world. At
the other end of the scale, Japan and Korea rank fourth and fifth on the
leaders list, which is led by Finland, the United States and Sweden.
Singapore outranks a majority of European countries.
The core of the 2001 report remains the broad human development index,
devised in 1990 by the late Mahbub ul Haq, a Pakistani economist. This
year, Norway rose to the top of the index that measures quality of life
very broadly. Australia, Canada, Sweden, Belgium and the United States
At the bottom of the list is Sierra Leone, in last place among 162 nations
surveyed. Of 36 nations considered lowest in human development, 29 are
Poor countries urged to upgrade food safety
Tuesday, July 03, 2001
GENEVA ? Two million children die from contaminated food and water each
year in developing countries, the WHO chief said Monday, urging them to
upgrade rapidly the safety and quality of their food products.
The appeal came from Gro Harlem Brundtland, director-general of the World
Health Organization and Hartwig de Haen, assistant director-general of the
Food and Agriculture Organization, who also backed further research on
genetically modified foods, or GM.
They were addressing the opening of the Codex Alimentarius Commission, a
joint WHO-FAO body that sets standards for the international food trade
sector valued at $400 billion annually.
The weeklong talks attended by most of the 165 member countries who adhere
to the voluntary code follow a string of food safety alerts which have
eroded global consumer confidence.
De Haen said: "Concern over BSE (mad cow disease), the dioxin crisis in
1999, numerous outbreaks of food-borne illnesses due to microbiological
contamination of foods and the appearance in human food of a genetically
modified maize approved only for animal feeding has strongly influenced
Brundtland, a former Norwegian prime minister and medical doctor, told the
talks: "We need to improve the systems we use to ensure food safety and
re-establish consumer confidence, we must reassess them all the way from
the farm to the table."
Delegates will discuss consumer issues including food derived from
biotechnology, labeling of organic and genetically modified food, food
additives and contaminants such as cadmium in cereals and aflotoxin in
NEED TO UPGRADE FOOD SAFETY STANDARDS
"Governments across the globe are increasingly finding themselves urgently
in need of upgrading their domestic food safety systems. In many
developing countries, however, there is often no comprehensive food safety
system in place to restructure in the first place," Brundtland declared.
The WHO chief called for helping poor countries to adopt current
"This is a win-win situation. Industrial countries will get better
reassurances that food imports are safe, while developing countries will
improve both domestic food production standards and be able to expand
their export markets."
De Haen said a Codex working group had been studying new measures that
would provide a "continuous chain of documentation" on the origin and
nature of each commodity and ingredient.
However, the so-called "traceability" proposal for tracing all foods and
food components from the origin to the point of final consumption would
also introduce further costs, he added.
De Haen and Brundtland agreed more research was needed into genetically
modified foods. Promoters say the new technology contributes to better
crop yields and lower production costs, while critics fear the health and
The WHO chief called for developing global standards for "pre-market
approval systems" to ensure GM food was evaluated before coming onto the
"Public health can benefit enormously from biotechnology's potential to
increase the nutrient content of foods, decrease their allergenicity, and
improve the efficiency of food production," Brundtland said.
"On the other hand, the potential negative effects on human health of the
consumption of food produced through genetic modification must be
carefully examined," she added.
Bt Or Not Bt, That Is The Question
Economic Times (India)
July 6, 2001
WE were on a threshold of providing a pro-farmer and eco-friendly viable
alternative to the peasants of our country when the government met to
approve Bt-cotton for large scale commercial sowing this Kharif season.
However, the decision to defer it and seek an additional years study could
end up sabotaging not just the crop but the livelihood of thousands of
farmers. The apparent reasons for this delay, namely to determine
putative gene flow from the GMO and the potential for development of
resistance to an antibiotic used as a marker, can neither be determined
within one year nor are any of the safety standards already achieved over
15 years of experience in other
countries likely to be revisited.
Admittedly, the introduction of GMOs in the country is going through birth
pangs but who is to blame for not obtaining the inputs of all the various
Certainly not the innovators. Dont the long-suffering farmers of the land
deserve to benefit from a technological innovation which has already been
commercialised without any adverse impact on two million hectares of land
in seven different countries spanning the US to Indonesia?
Bt-cotton is a genetically modified variant of many of the popular high
yielding varieties of cotton that are already in use in the country with
the additional improvement of built-in resistance to many of the insect
pests that devour the cotton plant, the bud and the boll to leave a bitter
harvest to the hapless farmers.
The gene was extracted from a naturally occurring soil bacterium, Bacillus
Thuringiensis, spliced into cotton plants and further developed to ensure
that the yield attributes and other favourable traits of the cotton plant
were preserved in the new variant.
The Bt-protein protects the crop by impairing the digestive system of the
attacking worm, killing the pest within a few days, sulting in increased
yield by as much as 20 to 25 per cent.
Given that 40 per cent of all pesticides used in the country is targeted
at combating pests of the cotton crop, running into several thousand
crores of rupees, Bt cotton offers a viable alternative to saving the
crop, reducing costs and lowering pesticide build-up in the environment.
And with it the frustration of having to contend with spurious and
ineffective pesticides that have occasionally led to suicides of farmers,
both of which can now become a thing of the past.
Such technological innovations offer a ray of hope to indigent farmers who
are already steeped in indebtedness in raising a decent crop on meagre
Detractors to the GM technology have been working overtime with their
smear campaign to thwart this technological innovation from reaching the
farmer and sparing him his anguish.
We had the dubious distinction of an e-mail campaign in the run-up to the
governmental approval processes from Robert Vints unabashed canards and
non-science that Bt-cotton would lead to increased mechanisation and
reduce labour on farms resulting in unemployment among land-less labourers.
Why would an effective, non-polluting and cost efficient pest protection
lead to any of these, begs to be answered.
Michelle Chawla of Greenpeace India, who debated me on a national TV
channel, alleged that sufficient health and biosafety risk assessments had
not been carried out.
As with any new technology that offers so many benefits, GMOs also come
with certain perceived risks. The best of science, accompanied by due
diligence, transparency in administrative processes and suitable enabling
systems, can help unleash a bountiful potential without undermining
Technological innovations deserve a chance to help humanity. We deserve to
give ourselves a better tomorrow through prudence today. Approval of the
GM cotton by the government for large-scale cultivation in the country
would be a positive step in the right direction.
Let us not skirt around the fringe, hoping for a better tomorrow when
today is at hand. Let there be greenery, peace and prosperity all around,
with or without the distractions of Greenpeace and their ilk!
Express Textile (India)
July 5, 2001
The recent decision by the high-level committee under the Union
agriculture ministry to go in for repeat trials of Bt cotton, is nothing
but a delaying tactics towards commercialisation of the transgenic cotton
which is widely accepted in major countries like the US, China and
Australia. In fact, in the US more than 60 per cent area is under
transgenic cotton, while China is moving fast towards adopting this
technology. Besides, at the meeting, this has also been decided that the
large-scale field trials will now be carried out under ICAR?s
multi-locational Advanced Varietal System as part of its All India
Coordinated Cotton Improvement Project (AICCIP). Here the moot question
arises is that as to why the authorities didn?t follow the same procedure
a year ago when Mahyco was allowed to conduct the trials after the Review
Committee on Genetic Manipulation (RCGM) under the Department of
Biotechnology (DBT), gave its biosafety clearance. This would have not
only avoided the unwarranted delay in commercial production but also
removed unnecessary doubts and confusions that are doing rounds. According
to official release, ?the trials could not be conducted in time and dates
of planting in some cases were late by as much as three months. Therefore,
the recorded insect pest-load was very low and the yield data and the net
agronomic advantage derived from the study conducted by Mahyco could not
reflect true values.? Here also the blame goes squarely on the authorities
i.e the Genetic Engineering Approval Committee (GEAC) under whose
supervision the entire trials were started in five states last year.
There is no point being hesitant and thereby slowing down the whole
process. Moreover, environmental groups and others who are trying to
oppose the cultivation of transgenic cotton must keep it in mind that
biotechnology is a proven science and one must welcome new technologies in
progressive fields. In fact, there is need to create awareness among
people about these genetically modified crops which have tremendous
potential in terms of higher yield and reduction in cost of production.
Moreover, we must know that more than 50 per cent (Rs 1,100 crore) of the
total pesticides consumed in the entire agriculture sector, find usage in
cotton cultivation. This adds to the cost of production to a great extent
as also brings down the yield per hectare considerably. During 51 small
scale trials carried out earlier by Mahyco under the RCGM supervision, it
was found that use of Bt cotton increases the production by 25-75 per
cent, while number of pesticide spray go down from eight to mere two. The
time has come to gear up and resolve the issues adopting more a pragmatic
approach. Our yield is almost half the world average and the overall
production has seen a declining trend of late. Only by adopting new
technologies, we can resolve these issues. In fact, the ultimate gainers
will be our poor farmers who are struggling to cope up with the growing
cost of cultivation.
Study Shows Altered Cotton Aids Farmers, Environment
by Kristin Danley-Greiner
Insect-resistant cotton not only benefits farmers? bottom line, but the
genetically enhanced cotton also reduces the amount of insecticide
released into the environment.
According to a summary report produced by Dr. Roger Leonard of Louisiana
State University and Dr. Ronald Smith of Auburn University, when farmers
plant insect-resistant cotton, fewer natural resources are used to make
and transport chemical insecticides.
The report estimates that last year, 3.46 million tons of raw materials
were saved in manufacturing and distribution, along with 2.08 million
gallons of fuel oil. In addition, 2.16 million pounds of industrial waste
Farmers enjoyed even more savings, since less insecticide use means fewer
trips across the field. Savings were estimated at 41,250 10-hour days of
aerial applications, 2.41 million gallons of fuel and 93.7 million gallons
of water. These lower costs of production along with increases in cotton
yield have provided farmers with an additional $168 million of income, the
Reduced insecticide use has other benefits as well, the scientists said.
?Risk of pesticide exposure is lowered, beneficial insect populations are
preserved, and farmers are given more time to spend as they choose.?
Case Studies in Benefits and Risks of Agricultural Biotechnology: Roundup
Ready Soybeans and Bt Field Corn
National Center for Food and Agricultural Policy
A Dossier on Biotechnology Available on CyberSciences Web Site
A dossier covering a wide range of biotech topics is available in both
French and English versions. Topics covered include: Introduction, GMO
production, Cloning, Economics, Health and promise of the human genome;
Agri-food, Environment; Wellness and nutriceuticals, Issues including
public perceptions and patents; a glossary, and references and contacts.
The biotechnology dossier is available at:
Pests attack genetically modified cotton
June 29, 2001
MAKASSAR, South Sulawesi (JP): Hundreds of hectares of the genetically
modified cotton fields at three villages in the regency of Bulukumba,
South Sulawesi, have been destroyed by pests identified as Helicoverpa
armigera and Spodoptera.
However, officials dealing with the genetically modified cotton business
said separately that there was "nothing to worry about."
Tri Soekirman, Corp. Communications manager of Monsanto, the supplier of
the genetically modified cotton from South Africa, said here on Thursday
that the pests were not dangerous.
"They are just larva which eat the leaves, but will not disrupt cotton
production," Tri told The Jakarta Post.
He said that based on a survey made by his team, the population of the
pests was still tolerable. "Therefore, pesticide is not necessary to
eliminate them. The farmers know how to handle them."
On Wednesday in Bulukumba, the leader of the genetically modified cotton
monitoring team, Ibrahim Manwa, voiced similar optimism that "the pest
population is still at tolerable levels."
He said 40 trees had been taken as samples from Balleanging village in
Bulukumba. "Out of the 40 trees, less than seven were attacked by the
pests. This means that the population of the pests is still very low," he
said, showing dried cotton leaves which had been destroyed by Spodoptera.
Ibrahim was in Bulukumba with the deputy head of the South Sulawesi
Agriculture Office, Karya.
The controversy over genetically modified cotton started in early May this
year when a total of 40 tons of Bollgard cotton seed belonging to
U.S.-based Monsanto was imported by Jakarta-based PT Monagro Kimia.
A number of activists have said that genetically modified products must be
prohibited from directly entering the province, and demanded that such
seeds be quarantined for detailed examination before being distributed to
It was Minister of Agriculture Bungaran Saragih who recommended the
importation of the seed and its distribution to seven regencies in South
State Minister for the Environment Sonny Keraf criticized the decision.
In Bulukumba regency alone, the genetically modified cotton was planted on
a total of 1,571.75 hectares, managed by 80 farmers' groups consisting of
At least 180 hectares of the cotton fields in the village of Balleanging,
Ujungloe district, have been invaded by the pests.
Local farmers said that the pests started attacking the cotton in
Many farmers have complained about the pests. They said the supplier had
claimed that the cotton variety was resistant to all kinds of pests.
Guess What's in Your Dinner
The Motley Fool
By Jeff Fischer (TMF Jeff)
July 2, 2001
Genetically altered crops are a hotbed of controversy around the world.
The controversy certainly has merit, but it's ironic in light of the fact
that we currently grow most crops using pesticides, herbicides, and
fertilizers -- manmade chemicals that are anything but appetizing. Biotech
crops could combat most starvation, improve billions of lives, and lead to
a cleaner environment. So, we must at least consider this potentially vast
Rule-Breaking industry with an open mind.
You are not a thing so much as you are a process. You start with one cell
and you split from there. Your cells split continually until you finally
look like... well, you. The process doesn't stop there, of course. The
process of changing continues throughout our lives.
What we eat and drink plays a large role in this process. Part of our food
becomes part of us, and makes living, growing, healing, and aging
possible. If you eat food that your body can't properly digest or
integrate, you often quickly become sick. If you eat food laced with
toxins, the toxins collect in the fat cells of your body until eventually
they pose a danger.
The old saying eventually comes true: We are what we eat. Eventually, some
of us are toxic.
Given food's endless importance, the debate surrounding biotech altered
food is expected. Despite the world's growing dependence on packaged food
(much of which is downright unnatural), a vast majority of our food still
comes from just one place: the ground. Most all food is grown from the
earth and is of the earth, but if you believe that most of it is
"natural," think again.
We've long altered our food
Mass agriculture has long depended on pesticides, herbicides, and hundreds
of other man-made chemicals, traces of which end up in food. Meanwhile,
most meat products have been injected with hormones or other unnatural
chemicals, and exposed to various pollutants (such as mercury in fish).
One generation ago the largest problem facing the world's most populous
countries, including India, was mass starvation. That potential disaster
was sidestepped by much of the world thanks to The Green Revolution of the
1960s. The Green Revolution was largely made possible with the aid of
fertilizer and other chemicals, but it wasn't just chemicals. Vast gains
were made by breeding different species of plants together to make new
ones, or by using only plants with desired characteristics, thereby
forcing a speedy Darwinian evolution to result in sturdier crops.
A worldwide boom in grain was largely the result of breeding plants with
shorter stems, because the shorter stemmed plants can support more and
heavier grain seeds per stem.
Man's interference with agriculture goes back much further than The Green
Revolution, however. More than 300 varieties of corn exist. For
generations we have mixed corn seeds to create new breeds of corn that
grow stronger or larger. Tomatoes, apples, potatoes, and various berries
have all been altered by man's nimble hand as well, resulting in some of
the most popular and sturdy breeds sold today.
But agri-biotech is a new game
Mixing existing species of plant life isn't the same as biotech-altered
food, though. Agri-biotech means introducing new and alien genes to a
crop. Some biotech crops are made to release their own insecticides, while
others are made to withstand a heavy spraying of weed killer. I admit that
both alterations in a crop disturb me, but I also admit a lack of in-depth
knowledge regarding both.
In cases that sound much less threatening, some biotech crops, such as
rice, are engineered to produce vitamin A, which rice lacks, in order to
end malnutrition and blindness in countries such as China. Several other
studies are underway to introduce various vitamins and nutrients to
popular crops that otherwise lack them in order to benefit the population,
much like fluoride is added to city water supplies.
Adding vitamin A to rice to help stop 2 million children from dying of
malnutrition and 500,000 more from going blind each year sounds like a
great improvement, and other crop improvements sound equally promising --
including the ability to increase yield and lessen starvation. A sensible
public can't argue with the attraction of these possibilities. Therefore,
the public outcry over biotech food is mostly due to fears of the great
unknown, namely: What are the long-term dangers of eating crops that have
been altered with alien genes? We don't have an answer because the
technology is so new.
Weighing risk and reward
Many people are trying to stop the spread of biotech food due to their
unspecified fear, but as the International Herald Tribune wrote on June
11, "The genie is already out of the bottle." The paper went on to say,
"More than 100 million acres of the world's most fertile farmland were
planted with genetically modified crops last year, about 25 times more
than just four years earlier." Add to that "black market" biotech seeds,
commingled seeds, and wind-blown pollen, and the result is unavoidable:
Genetically altered crops are here to stay, and are spreading rapidly.
It's ironic that in a world that has thousands of man-made chemicals
circling in the air, in the water and in the soil, and in a world where
beef is injected with hormones, where many food products are made in
factories without natural food involved at all, and where crops are soaked
in fertilizers, pesticides, and weed killers, we're most concerned with
biotech crops -- crops that use natural substances but in new ways. I
admit that before I began to study the issues of agri-biotech, I was
against genetically altered food. However, now I am much more neutral or
at least open-minded on the issue.
I believe that genetically altered food has the potential to improve the
world in many ways, while also greatly decreasing our use of farming
chemicals. However, I also recognize that unknown risks exist, both for
people and for nature (and "nature" is increasingly hard to define).
Whatever thoughts a person has about this topic, attacking the leading
agri-biotech companies -- including Aventis (NYSE: AVE), Monsanto (NYSE:
MON) and Syngenta (NYSE: SYT) -- isn't a solution. (Tom Jacobs recently
wrote about the industry's woes.) We need to continue learning about the
issues, rather than attacking the unknown.
European Network on Genetically Modified Crops: "ENTRANSFOOD"
A European Network on genetically modified crops has been implemented to
address issues related to food safety and market introduction of GM-food
crops. "ENTRANSFOOD" is financed by the European Commission within the
5th framework programme and is co-ordinated by the State Institute for
Quality Control of Agricultural Products (RIKILT), the Netherlands.
ENTRANSFOOD will bring together experts on genetic modification of food
crops from a number of areas including academia, food safety research,
transgenic plant production companies/plant growers, regulatory
authorities, food retailers and consumer groups from various European
countries. Ongoing research projects will focus on four main theme groups:
Theme group 1: Safety testing of transgenic foods
Theme group 2: Detection of unintended effects
Theme group 3: Gene transfer
Theme group 4: Traceability and quality assurance
Other topics concerning risk assessment, risk management and risk
communication will also be discussed. The expectations of ENTRANSFOOD
include the following:
1. To identify proper research strategies and tools to assess the safety
of transgenic food products
2. To produce position papers/documents concerning risk assessment and
risk management of
3. To establish a permanent platform for communication between
More information is available at: <http://www.entransfood.com>
Farmers in Midwestern U.S. Increase Planting of Genetically-Altered
Omaha World Herald
July 3, 2001
By Bill Hord
LINCOLN, Neb.--Farmers in Nebraska and Iowa and across the United States
increased their planting of genetically modified soybeans this year,
taking advantage of their potential to cut costs in production.
The use of biotech soybeans jumped 26 percent as farmers planted varieties
that allow them to use weed killers without damaging the soybean plant,
eliminating the labor-intensive task of walking through bean fields and
pulling weeds. Last year, 54 percent of soybean acres were planted to
biotech seeds. This year, it is 68 percent. Farmers increased the share of
biotech soybean acres
from 72 percent to 76 percent in Nebraska and from 59 percent to 73
percent in Iowa.
"Farmers are more accepting of some of the benefits that biotechnology is
bringing to the operation," said Victor Bohuslavsky, executive director of
the Nebraska Soybean Board.
About one-fourth of all corn plantings were with genetically enhanced
seed, the same as last year. In Nebraska, the percentage was 34 percent,
the same as 2000, and in Iowa 32 percent, up 2 percentage points from 2000.
Farmers have been attracted to biotech corn varieties that produce a
protein that kills pests. It was one of these varieties -- StarLink --
that got into the food supply last year after only being approved for
As a result of the StarLink contamination of the food chain, only biotech
varieties that are approved for human consumption are currently being sold.
"The producers are being careful of what they plant and making sure they
have approval to ship it, or they know where they are going to sell it,"
said Randy Klein, director of market development for the Nebraska Corn
The U.S. Agriculture Department reported on the use of biotech seeds
Friday as part of its first plantings estimate for the 2001 crop year.
The report indicated that excessive spring rains and other factors reduced
the planting of corn and soybeans from what had been expected in the March
As a result of that and a reduction in the estimate for future soybean
surpluses, July futures prices climbed sharply -- more than 20 cents a
bushel -- on the Chicago Board of Trade Friday to $4.821/2.
"The market was pretty hot," Bohuslavsky said.
Despite the decline in plantings as compared to pre-planting expectations,
farmers still planted 4 percent more soybeans in 2001 than in 2000. Their
corn acres were down by 1 percent.
Nebraska and Iowa farmers were part of that trend, reducing their corn
acres by 3.5 percent (Nebraska) and 3.3 percent (Iowa) and raising soybean
acres by 5.4 percent (Nebraska) and 2.8 percent (Iowa).
The planting shifts were driven in part by an increase in fertilizer and
fuel prices, which are higher with corn than with soybeans. Corn laps up
nitrogen and water. Soybeans also draw a more favorable government
subsidy, should low commodity prices continue into next fall.
The new planting estimates were the key factors in reducing the
government's estimate for the Aug. 31, 2001, soybean surplus from 270
million bushels to 220 million bushels.
The corn surplus estimate for 2002 could drop from 1.9 billion bushels to
1.6 billion bushels, according to Dick Smetana, director of research at
AgResource Co. in Chicago.
"That is not a tight situation," said Smetana, "but it's certainly a
different direction than we've been seeing lately on corn."