From: Amy Lorentzen, Associated Press
Published May 10, 2005 12:00 AM

Seed Industry Says One-Billionth Acre of Biotech Seed Has Been Planted

DES MOINES, Iowa — Biotech farmers this week are lauding what they say is a milestone for the industry -- the planting of the billionth acre of biotech seed.

"Today, we have hit an amazing milestone -- somewhere in the northern hemisphere, a farmer has planted the one billionth acre of seed containing biotech traits," Tom West, vice president of biotechnology affairs for Pioneer Hi-Bred International Inc., said in a statement Monday.

West said biotech crops are one of the greatest technological advances in the history of agriculture.

Such crops have been at the center of heated debate between environmentalists, who worry they're not safe for the land or human consumption, and industry organizations, that say biotech crops reduce the use of pesticides and other farm chemicals.

Rich Leopold, executive director of the Iowa Environmental Council, said biotech crops need public oversight and monitoring, including more study of their effect on the environment.

Stephen Howell, director of the Plant Sciences Institute at Iowa State University, said many biotech crops already have withstood safety tests.

"Certainly, the ones that have been out there and have been planted and grown for long periods of time, they have stood the test of time in that they have been widely consumed," he said.

Howell said about 85 percent of soybeans and 45 percent of corn planted in the United States in 2004 were biotech crops, with Monday's achievement further illustrating the rate of the adoption has been "much faster than anyone anticipated."

Gordon Wassenaar, 69, of Prairie City, farms about 750 acres of soybeans and about 500 acres of corn.

All of his soybeans are biotech crops, and his corn is grown from about three-fourths biotech seed. He said he's used the biotech crops for years now and they've saved on cost, cutting down the use of farm chemicals, and saved some on the work because less spraying is required.

"We're pleased," he said. "No complaints at all."

Source: Associated Press

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