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Press-Republican. (Plattsburgh, N.Y.) 1966-current, October 06, 1991, Image 37

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PAGE D-A SUNDAY, OCTOBER 6. 199) AGRIBUSINESS PRESS-REPUBLICAN PLATTSBURGH, NY. Genetically engineered corn passes field tests Ttt« Wall StfMt Journal The first field-grown ears and stalks of genetically engineered corn indicate that inserting new genes into the nation'9 biggest farm crop is practical. Biotechnology companies last year achieved a long-sought goal of inserting new genes into labo- ratory-grown corn plants. This summer they planted their first field plots of genetically altered corn to make sure that the new genes would function and that genetic manhandling didn't cause any unwanted changes in the plants. \Its a bit too early (to assess the field test in detail} since we just harvested our plots three weeks ago and the samples are still in the lab being analyzed,\ says Charles H. Baker, president of BioTechnica International Inc. in Overland Park, Kan. \But it looks^ like everything turned out as expected/* he says. Genetic engineers ultimately to Milk strike: Steve Pereira, aided by his mother, Ana, gets a cup Luis Pereira's, farm in Deerfield, NY The milk was dumped by of milk from the stream pouring out of a milk truck on his father, area farmers there last week to protest low milk prices. Cornell Ag Contiection Role of cows in global warming exaggerated To counteract global warming due to the release of gases into the atmosphere, the simple act of replacing incandescent light bulbs with fluorescent bulbs would be cheaper and more ef- fective than trying to curb how much methane cows emit, say two Cornell University resource economists. Furthermore, recently publish- ed estimates that cows give off as much as 15 percent of the methane released into the at- mosphere are exaggerated, they assert, because the estimates ig- nore the effect of carbon's bio- logical and chemical cycles. When such cycles are consid- ered, the net effect of gas emis- sions from ruminant animals may be less than five percent of total emissions- Further, with proper handling of manure, ruminants in fact could become an overall sink for carbon diox- ide. We believe that there is a tendency to overemphasize cows and agriculture in general, as well as rice paddies in develop- ing countries — which are reported to emit 20 percent of the methane each year — as causes of global warming. This diverts attention away from the much more urgent need to reduce fossil-fuel consumption in industrialized nations/' said Duane Chapman, a professor of resource economics in the Col- lege of Agriculture and Life Sciences at Cornell. \In our view, cows and agriculture are not the hazard to the atmosphere that some scien- tists have made them out to be.\ Parathion banned for most uses WASHINGTON 4AP) - Makers of the pesticide parathion agreed to tough new restrictions recently, but the Environmental Protection Agen- cy said it will seek to go further and ban the chemical blamed for killing dozens of farm workers. EPA and the producers agreed to limit the highly toxic insec- ticide to use cm nine crops, out of about 90 on which it is cur- rently applied. The action is ex- pected to cut parathion use by at least half from the recent levels of about 3 million to 6 mil- lion pounds annually. Environmentalists said the dangers of parathion have been known for decades and should have prompted faster and more decisive government action EPA Administrator William K KeiDy said the deal ~wiH result in a dramatic reductioo in the number of workers who an- nually are poisoned by exposure to this pesticide.'.' He said. \Those uses which pose the greatest clangers to workers will be prohibited almost immediate- ly and the agency plans to cancel the other uses soon.\ Officials said they expect the proceedings on a total ban to be coiuo«ted and to \me\ •boyt IS months Meanwhile, after Dec 31 parathion will be allowed on only nine crops alfalfa, barley, canoia. corn cotton, sorghum, soybeans sunflower and wheat Those rune, wtuch are »D harvested mechanjcaQy rather than with hand labor, account U* about 40 perrem to 50 per- cent of the total use of paraih.or. said Linda Fisher, the government agency's assistant administrator for pesticides and toxic substances. Crops on which parathion will no longer be allowed to be used include apples, almonds, oats, peaches and peanuts. Fisher said there was no evi- dence that parathion residues cm food pose any hazard to con- sumers The only manufacturer of parathion is the Danish firm Cheminova. with American headquarters in Bloomfiekl. N J Eight American firms have licenses to use the chemical in producing pesticides, so they also were involved in the agree- ment with EPA Kurt Hailing, president of Cheminova* s U.S. subsidiary. «aad the company had no com- ment Al Meyerboff. a senior staff attorney in San Francisco for the Natural Resources Defense Council said more than a dozen countries, including Britain. Ireland and the Soviet Union, have banned parathion. said Chapman. \We've got to face the fact that fossil-fuel con- sumption by industrialized na- tions is the culprit and therefore must be the focus of any inter- national agreements slated to reduce greenhouse-gas emis- sions.\ His work, done in collabora- tion with doctoral student Thomas Drennen, . will be published in the proceedings of the November 1990 conference. \Global Change: Economic Issues in Agriculture. Forestry, and Natural Resources/* by Westview Press. 'The present estimates have ignored how livestock \recycle carbon. They don't just emit methane: they also utilize hay and grain, which remove the greenhouse-gas carbon dioxide from the atmosphere through the photosynthesis process. Fur- ther, if properly managed, ma- nure from cows can return car- bon to the soil, 1 * Chapman ex- plains. Some government officials, scientists, and others have pro- posed that methane, which traps infrared radiation from escaping from the Earth's atmosphere, should be included with carbon dioxide when international agreements to limit emissions of climate-changing greenhouse gases are considered. However, Chapman and Drennen contend that such concern is unjustified and that an agreement aimed at reducing carbon dioxide would be an important first step. As further support for their emphasis on carbon dioxide, they note that carbon dioxide will account for as much as 90 percent of the problem once the chlorofluorocarbons, now used as aerosols, refrigerants, and foam plastics, are phased out by the year 2000. As for the cows, each adult cow releases up to 106 gallons of methane per day through belching. Scientists calculate that the 1.2 billion cattle worldwide release some 60 mil- lion tons of methane annually. To consider limiting cattle production as a way to reduce global warming is \absurd Chapman and Drennen point out. One cow, they say, has the same global-warming effect as a 75-watt light bulb operating for an entire year. \Replacing in- candescent light bulbs in indus- trialized countries with new 18- watt fluorescent bulbs that pro- vide the same amount of light would go much further in reduc- ing future climate-change impact than trying to regulate bovine emissions in developing coun- tries, which have 53 percent of the worlds cows/* Chapman said. Furthermore, Chapman and Drennen point out that rumi- nant animals and rice paddies both recycle carbon, unlike fossil-fuel consumption which releases new carbon into the at- mosphere. Methane's impact on the global climate from cows and agriculture is simply not the same as methane from fossil-fuel use. they assert. Chapman and Drennen's work, supported by Cornell, is part of a larger ongoing project to evaluate the magnitude of emis- sions from the biological versus energy sectors. SOLUTION TO PUZZLES UULHJU UIIUU UUUU nOHHO nnnnn nnon nnon nnnnra nnn UQIBGU mjiaoBOijno] DBOO BBO DEC GRQ QQflB onooo n ocn OBBGH ram DISCUS BOLEO FUTURE APTTJL G€V»US TO TURN OFF THE LIGHTS ITIOTBU HGHU nnnnn nrwn UIIHDU nnnnn aim to increase the corn crop's resistance to insects, drought and chemicals and to improve its nutritional value as livestock feed. If successful, the corn ex- periments could have an eco- nomic impact that would dwarf most other genetic engineering feats. Since the seven billion to 7.5 billion bushels of corn that U.S. farmers harvest each year are worth $18 billion to $20 billion, new genes that can increase per-acre yields by only a few percent or add a few cents per bushel to prices of com for cat- tle, swine and poultry feed are worth hundreds of millions of dollars to farmers. The stakes also are high for .the..half-dozen companies now racing to market genetically modified corn. Besides BioTechnica these companies in- clude Monsanto Co., Pioneer Hi-Bred International Inc., DeKalb Genetics Corp. and Ciba Geigy Corp. All are fierce com- petitors for the $1.5 billion that U.S. farmers spend each year on hybrid corn seed. Cross-breeding Plant geneticists have been improving corn plants since the 1920s, but only through tedious years of cross-breeding corn strains that have desirable genes. The breakthrough last year, announced by one company after another, was the ability to insert new genes directly into em- bryonic corn plants without cross-breeding. The new technology allows plant scien- tists to add almost any new gene to a corn plant, including genes from bacteria and from other plants. The new gene-inserting technology being used by most of the companies was pioneered by Cornell University and was perfected by Du Pont Co. Known as \microprojectile bom- bardment/' it is literally a gun that shoots new genes into the germ cells of corn plants. While some of the companies experimented only with so-called market genes that confer resistance on an antibiotic or in- secticide, Monsanto tested a gene that it hopes will end up in a new commercial strain of corn. Its experimental corn plants this summer carried a bacterial gene that produces a natural insec- ticide, which interferes with the digestion of corn leaves eaten by the European corn borer, said Michael Fromm, the chemical company's project leader for corn genetics. Corn borers chomping into leaves of corn plants with the new gene should get a lethal dose of the insec- ticide, he said. Laboratory Monsanto tested gene-altered corn plants in an area already in- fested with the corn borer. The inserted gene functioned in the field-tested plants, Fromm said, but he conceded \it didn't work as well as in the laboratory/* -That is because \the way the in- sects grow in the field is dif- ferent\ from in the laboratory. he said. BioTechnica also tested'a)gene that it hopes to insert into com- mercial strains of hybrid corn. Baker said. The gene boosts the corn's content of methionine, one of the essential amino acids that are vital components of proteins. Today* s corn, Baker says, falls short of supplying a chicken's daily requirements of methionine. BioTechnica hopes to produce a high-methionine corn that will enable poultry breeders and growers to reduce or eliminate the need to add syn- thetic methionine to their birds' diets, he explains. Pioneer hopes to begin field tests next season of corn carry- ing commercially important genes for resistance to insects and diseases, says John Howard, the company's director of biotechnology. How long it will be before farmers can plant genetically engineered corn is unknown. Pi- oneer's Howard guesses it may take three more years to get new genes into commercial strains of corn. It then will take four to five years to parlay the new plants into a seed crop large enough for the company to begin selling seed to farmers. \My guess is that the farmer won't see (genetically engineered corn) before 1998,\ he says. P-R Business Guidelines The Press-Republican is committed to business coverage. Here's a brief explanation of how we categorize business news: • New-business photos run, on a space-available basis on the business pages, Monday through Saturday. New businesses should telephone or write to make an appointment for a photo. • Established businesses that have a significant news develop- ment — new owner, new location, expansion or anniversary — may be eligible for a business profile. Published under the heading \People in Business/' these medium-length features run in the Sunday paper. Businesses must be locally owned, cannot be franchises and cannot be professionals. • Other business news items are usually classified as business briefs. Called \Spotlight on business\ and published in the Sun- day paper this feature includes abbreviated news items on con- test and award winners of less than $5,000, new employees, employee promotions, charitable contributions of less than $5,000, seminars, conventions, and training. We do not an- nounce the hiring or promotion of employees below management level or longevity awards for fewer than 25 years. Please address all press releases or inquiries to Sunday Editor Jack Downs, Press-Republican, 170 Margaret St., Pittsburgh, N.Y. 12901. 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