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The makers of the first corn genetically modified to be tolerant of drought said they are confident it will prove its value to farmers despite an environmental group's charge that it provides only modest yield gains.
The drought-tolerant corn, a collaboration between BASF SE (BAS.XE, BASFY) and Monsanto Co. (MON), is being marketed under the DroughtGard brand and is scheduled for widespread introduction in 2013.
It is being tested by 250 farmers this year, and the results will take precedent over the Union of Concerned Scientists' report that was released Tuesday, said Peter Eckes, president of BASF's plant science division.
"Farmers will trust what they see," Eckes said in an interview.
The Union of Concerned Scientists, a frequent critic of genetically modified crops, said the biotech industry has "made little real-world progress" on reducing yield losses from drought.
"Despite many years of research and millions of dollars in development costs, DroughtGard doesn't outperform the non-engineered alternatives," Doug Gurian-Sherman, a senior scientist with the group and author of the report, said in a statement Tuesday.
The group's report suggests that broader efforts to develop genetically modified drought-tolerant traits have slowed and it advocates more public funding for conventional breeding programs. It said DroughtGard, based on limited data, has performed only slightly better than conventionally bred drought-tolerant seeds.