Transgenic Corn Provides Economic and Environmental Benefits to Spanish Farmers

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Arazo cites better yields with fewer pesticide applications.

When the corn borer attacked strongly … as happened two years ago, the losses were up to 40 or 50 percent

Transgenic insect-protected corn is enabling farmers in Spain to successfully manage against the damage from the European corn borer, which causes annual yield losses of 5 to 15 percent. The corn borer feeds on all above-ground corn tissue and tunnels into the tassel, ear, shank and stalk of the corn plant, interfering with plant growth and causing stalks to break and ears to drop.    

More than half of the corn grown in Spain is produced in regions with medium or high annual corn borer pressure. “When the corn borer attacked strongly … as happened two years ago, the losses were up to 40 or 50 percent,” says Miguel Arazo, who has farmed for more than 28 years and currently grows corn and barley on 300 acres (120 hectares).

“In a few hectares, we collected 34 metric tons of fallen corncobs by hand. That is unacceptable. So last year, I planted 80 percent transgenic,” comments Arazo in an exclusive video and podcast available at the Conversations about Plant Biotechnology Web site: “Even when there are no borer attacks you get 7 or 8 percent higher yields with transgenics. That’s an increase of many kilos.”

Lepidopteran pests such as the corn borer are a major constraint to increased productivity, and are of economic importance in most maize-growing countries throughout the world. Insect-protected transgenic corn produces a protein from Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt), which protects plants from specific lepidopteron insect pests. In 2005, farmers in five European Union countries grew modest areas of transgenic corn including the Czech Republic, France, Germany, Portugal and Spain.

“I believe Bt corn is better for the environment,” continues Arazo. “In this region, non- Bt traditional corn has to be sprayed with insecticide two or three times, but there is no need to spray Bt corn at all.” In addition to Arazo’s video, visitors to the Conversations about Plant Biotechnology Web site can view conversations with two of his fellow Spanish farmers – Pedro Lerín and Ismael Purroy.

Conversations about Plant Biotechnology is designed to give a voice and a face to the farmers and families who grow biotech crops and the experts who research and study the technology. The Web site contains more than 40, two- to three-minute, extremely candid, straightforward and compelling video segments with the people who know the technology best. The Web site is hosted by Monsanto Company — a leading global provider of technology-based solutions and agricultural products that improve farm productivity and food quality.

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Ranjana Smetacek
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