Women in Sustainable Agriculture and Food Biotechnology

Part of the series Women in Engineering and Science pp 71-83


The Story Behind the Approval of the First Bt Maize Product

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One of the first products of agricultural biotechnology to be brought to market was a maize (corn) product that had built in protection against an insect pest. This was achieved by inserting a bacterial gene encoding a protein toxin into the corn genome. This product represented all the promise biotechnology brings to sustainable agriculture (lower inputs for farmers, less pesticide use, higher yields, etc.) as well as the uncertainty associated with the safety (when used as food or feed and to the environment) of genetically engineered crops. Many scientific and technical hurdles had to be overcome to create and identify the event that would bring value to the grower and be commercially viable. Demonstration of the safety of this product together with political, ethical, and economic issues all stood in the path between scientific success and global market acceptance. This was an exciting and challenging time. This is the inside story.