business news in context, analysis with attitude

The Pacific Business News reports that the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has released a study suggesting that “Hawaii's genetically engineering seed industry is now valued at $70.4 million…exceeded only by pineapple at $79.3 million. Sugar cane has slipped to third place with a value of $58.3 million.”

According to the story, agricultural genetic engineering has taken hold in Hawaii because the state’s “climate allows more than one growing and development cycle per year. The research, in brief, proceeds more rapidly.”

The Business News writes that “the agricultural seed crop industry in Hawaii is dominated by seed corn but also includes soybean, sunflower and cotton. Depending on the year, the value of the corn seed crop generally falls between 92 percent and 97 percent of the total Hawaii seed industry…the Hawaii seed industry employs more than 2,000 people and pumps $144 million a year into the state economy including $7 million in taxes.”

However, the 50th state has some competition. Reuters has a story saying that “Asia is set to become the driving force behind biotech crops in the next decade, despite hesitance by China to commercialize GMO rice.” India currently is the world’s biggest grower of genetically modified cotton, and the International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications (ISAAA) has released a report noting that 2006 marked the beginning of the second decade of biotech development.

"The second decade will likely feature strong growth in Asia led by China, India and new countries like Pakistan and Vietnam," it said in a report. "The first decade (1996-2005) was the decade of the Americans."
KC's View:
Seems to us that this is an area in which America cannot afford to be left behind…that as a nation we need to make a real and unambiguous commitment to using biotechnology to help feed the world. This isn’t just a matter of technological parity, let alone excellence. It also is a matter of maintaining our position as an agricultural power.