NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


July 3, 2007

There's a bitter irony in the critical water shortage currently plaguing California, which could cause major crop and pasture losses and widespread restrictions on water usage, says Henry I. Miller, a fellow at the Hoover Institution.

Two of the three counties where water use is currently restricted by the local water authorities, Mendocino and Marin, have banned a key technology that could conserve huge amounts of water.

This technology is gene-splicing, sometimes called genetic modification (GM), which gives plant breeders the tools to make old crop plants do spectacular new things, including conserve water.

  • In the United States and at least 21 other countries, farmers are using gene-spliced crop varieties to produce higher yields, with lower water inputs and reduced impact on the environment.
  • For the last decade, more than 100 million acres of them have been cultivated each year.
  • Cumulatively, more than a billion acres have been cultivated worldwide during the past 15 years.

Despite intense cultivation of gene-spliced plants for more than a decade -- during which time not a single person has been injured or an ecosystem disrupted -- four California counties have banned them entirely!

Even where gene-spliced crops are being cultivated, unscientific, overly burdensome regulation by the Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Department of Agriculture has raised significantly the cost of producing new plant varieties and kept many potentially important crops from ever reaching the market, says Miller.

Source: Henry I. Miller, "How to Get More Crop for the Drop,", June 29, 2007.


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