A record corn harvest in the USA partly due to genetically modified varieties
A Financial Times report on the new numbers suggests that bleeding-edge varieties of genetically modified corn partially explain the yield-per-acre gains. "U.S. farmers have been using record levels of new-generation seeds from suppliers such as Monsanto which are more resistant to drought and pests, boosting yields."
Kenneth G. Cassman and Adam J. Liska in the debut issue of a new academic journal, Biofuels, Bioproducts, and Biorefining (warning pdf) write
U.S. maize yield trends since the mid-1960s have been supported by a powerful train of research and technology development. New breeding methods, expansion of irrigated area, soil testing and balanced fertilization, conservation tillage, and integrated pest management were the driving forces of innovation in the first 30 years of this time series. Insect resistant "Bt" maize, which is a transgenic crop variety produced by genetic engineering (commonly called a GMO), was introduced in the mid-1990s. However, despite investment of hundreds of millions of dollars in genomics and crop genetic engineering by both the public and private sectors since then, there has been little additional impact of biotechnology since Bt maize other than incorporation of herbicide resistance through the "Roundup Ready" trait, which also was discovered before the advent of genomics...
As a biotech enthusiast and genomics skeptic, I couldn't be more pleased.
via Mark Thoma