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the following general comments are to provide information on variety
testing. I have not read the data reported in the story so I can not
comment on it directly.
Firstly, soybeans are not the only transgenic plant line that has been
widely commercialised. Others include corn and canola (oilseed rape).
Using canola as a specific, there have been claims that yields have been
increased up to 30%. This is a significant gain. Therefore my first point
is even if transgenic soybeans do not yield well, other transgenic crops do
out preform conventional varieties.
Secondly, as stated by the researcher at the end of the story, soybeans have
been developed using traditional methods even as transgenic soybeans were
being developed. If the transgenic soybean uses old varieties (old
germplasm), it may not be as good as the new varieties (new germplasm) in
yield, disease tolerance or many other parameters. That is why comparisons
between transgenic and non-transgenic plants should be conducted using the
same variety. Otherwise you are detecting differences in cultivars as well
as any differences as a result of genetic modification. Using traditional
breeding, the gene of interest (in this case herbicide tolerance) can be
introduced into the superior yielding germplasm (assuming that the company
has access to that germplasm).
Thirdly, varieties preform better in certain circumstances. One variety may
suit one region over another. If Nebraska happened to be an area not suited
to the transgenic soybeans you would expect them to preform worse. As I am
not an expert in soybean varieties I cannot comment further on this point.
Finally, what should also be taken into account is input cost per unit
increase/decrease in yield. Inputs used with conventional soybeans maybe
higher then those required with transgenic varieties (eg lower number of
tractor passes for weed control, less bed preparation). If input/yield is
decreased, food becomes cheaper to produce and is likely to be cheaper to
buy elsewhere in the world. Distribution of wealth and food is always going
to be a problem. Preventing the introduction of transgenic crops is not
going to help it at all. However, it has the potential to be part of the