An Example of How Much Pesticides Have Changed

Napa+View

Napa vineyard image from Almonroth via Wikimedia Commons The pesticides that farmers use to protect their crops have changed a great deal over the last few decades.  While improvement is something we expect from technologies as diverse as pharmaceuticals, electronics or plant breeding, few people are aware of the positive developments in the chemicals used for crop protection.  I find that many plant molecular biologists and other defenders of biotechnology have a similarly out-dated view of pesticides. Dramatic change began with the establishment of the EPA in 1970 which led to the elimination of many problematic, old pesticides.  Also, there

GMO wine grapes would be cool

Chardonnay grown in Colorado

Chardonnay grapes grown in Colorado by Steve Savage. I am 99.9% sure that there will never be commercial production of genetically engineered wine grapes (“GMO” to use the common misnomer). Even so, I’d like to indulge in imagining what could be if we lived in some parallel universe where rational scientific thinking prevailed. Wine grapes are an extremely logical crop for genetic engineering because there is no tolerance for changing varieties. For annual crops like grains or vegetables, new varieties are bred on a regular basis to solve pest issues or to improve features like taste or shelf life. Breeding

When a new technology saved the French wine industry

grapes

Amy Harmon’s excellent article in the New York Times describes how the Florida orange juice industry may soon be wiped out because of a new bacterial disease spread by an introduced insect. There could be a technology fix for the problem using genetic engineering, but the question is whether the growers will get to apply that solution. Infected leaves fall off Coffee Rust (Hemileia vastatrix) image from Smartse The sort of crisis situation now facing the Florida orange industry is not at all unique in the history of farming. There have been many times when some new pest threatened the economic viability