Since the U.S. Department of Agriculture announced earlier this month that it was deregulating corn for planting a traited corn (MON 87460) genetically engineered to increase drought tolerance, the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) started spreading the message that biotech drought tolerant corn isn’t worth marketing to U.S. farmers. The group issued a statement saying the new corn is unlikely to actually have much impact in helping farmers in drought-stricken areas.

Monsanto has said that the new drought-tolerant corn is designed for farmers in the Western Great Plains states. The UCS criticizes that point saying by USDA estimates, the corn is only geared for 15 percent of the total corn acres.

The group also criticizes that Monsanto is attempting to reach higher yield in low water areas with a genetically modified corn. UCS instead prefers drought-tolerant corn developed through conventional breeding techniques.

Doug Gurian-Sherman, senior scientist for the Union of Concerned Scientists’ Food & Environment Program, said, “Monsanto’s new corn will not be a silver bullet for farmers suffering from the kind of severe drought facing the Southwest right now. While the industry continues to say it’ll do better, achieving substantially higher levels of drought tolerance with genetically modified crops in the foreseeable future is uncertain…”

Monsanto plans to conduct on-farm trials in 2012 to give some farmers experience with the corn and provide demonstration plots.