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Going Biotech: A Spanish Farmer Discusses His Experience

I’m Steve Ember with the VOA Special English Agriculture Report.

The Biotechnology Industry Organization, or BIO, held its two thousand six international convention earlier this month in Chicago. It says attendance set a record with more than nineteen thousand people from sixty-two countries.

BIO represents more than one thousand companies and other organizations. Its members genetically engineer products in health care, agriculture and other areas.

The convention included former President Bill Clinton and what the organizers called the world's largest indoor cornfield.

Jose Manuel Pomar is a farmer from the Aragon area of Spain who attended the convention. Mister Pomar grows Bt maize. Bt maize contains a gene from a bacterium that produces a poison. This poison helps the plants resist insects, especially the maize borer.

Some things do not change with biotech crops. Mister Pomar says he uses the same amount of fertilizer with Bt maize as he does with conventional corn.

The main difference, he says, is in the use of insecticide. Mister Pomar says he sprays his conventional maize with insect poisons three to four times a season. With Bt maize, he says, he might spray once if maize borers are present in large numbers.

Chemicals are costly. The savings help pay for the higher cost of the biotech seeds.

Mister Pomar says his profit on Bt corn is fifteen to twenty percent higher than his conventional maize. He also says he harvests more.

He grows about two hundred hectares of Bt maize for animal food. This is only a part of his cropland. He also grows three hundred fifty hectares of non-Bt maize. And he grows alfalfa, soybean and other crops.

In all, Mister Pomar has one thousand two hundred hectares of farmland. Most of his crops are not biotech. But some people do not like that he uses genetically engineered crops at all. He says people have complained to him. And he worries about possible legal issues in the future.

Still, he says many other farmers in his area grow some biotech crops. The Spanish farmer says he is pleased with his results. He says the added profits could be important if the European Union cuts farm aid in the coming years.

Next week, we talk to two American farmers who grow biotech maize and cotton.

This VOA Special English Agriculture Report was written by Mario Ritter. Read and listen to our reports at I'm Steve Ember.