In January 2012, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) approved the first genetically engineered drought-tolerant corn -- despite minimal evidence of its actual drought tolerance. Since then, there’s been a steady stream of analysis suggesting that genetically engineering for this trait won’t give farmers much bang for their buck.
Engineering a plant for drought tolerance, which represents the interaction of many genes, isn’t like doing the same for traits like herbicide tolerance or pesticide expression, which hinge on a single gene. And even if successful, there’s no guarantee that the engineered plant will do as well in normal conditions as it does in drought.
When Wired Science blogger Brandon Keim looked at the potential for drought tolerance in corn, he concluded that the complexity: