A Public Voice
A Public Voice on Biotechnology and Agriculture
Union of Concerned Scientists
Fall/Winter 1998

The Better Way

Disrupting Corn Borer Mating
Tom Baker, chair of Iowa State University's entomology department, has a research project underway to adapt pheromone* strategies, typically used in orchards, to protect large acreages of corn from the European corn borer (ECB). His strategy is to release synthetic pheromones to overwhelm ECB males and hinder their ability to detect the tiny amounts of natural sex-attracting pheromones produced by female moths. The males are so confused that they cannot find females--hence they don't mate. As a result there are fewer corn borers in the next generation.

While this method is not expected to eliminate ECB, Baker believes it could suppress mating and egg laying enough to allow corn to escape damage. According to preliminary calculations, the approach may also be more cost-effective than insecticide use. The biggest challenge in gearing up to protect large fields is to release the appropriate amount of pheromones at the right time in the right place.

* Pheromones are chemicals produced by an insect which influence the behavior or development of other insects of the same species.

Source: E. Weber, "Biologically based control tactic makes mating a losing game for European corn borers," Leopold Letter, Vol. 9, No. 4, pp. 1, 6, 7, Winter 1997.


"Healthy Animals on Healthy Land"
Annie Wilson, rancher and manager of the eight-family Tallgrass Prairie Producers Cooperative, raises "healthy animals on healthy land." That's how she describes her Kansas ranch. She and her co-op partners raise cattle on pasture grass with a minimum of outside inputs. Forgoing antibiotics and hormones, they produce healthy, lean meat which commands premium prices. At the same time, keeping their ranch in grass means that they maintain healthy soils and good water quality--and preserve a way of life.

Source: "Rancher co-op raises, markets grass-fed beef," SARE 1998 Project Highlights, USDA Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education Project, p. 6, Washington, D.C.


SARE's First Decade
The USDA's Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education Program (SARE) is celebrating its 10th anniversary this year. The program has awarded $80.6 million to support 1200 projects--all aimed at advancing sustainable agriculture systems. During its short life, SARE has evolved into a unique, popular, and successful program--to a great extent because of its innovative approaches and inclusiveness. SARE encourages partnerships among stakeholders, including farmers, university faculty, and nonprofit groups, and relies on a regional structure to ensure that policies and grant decisions are influenced by people at the grassroots.

A Decade of SARE Projects, by Category
Animal Production18%
Pest Management18%
Crop Production13%
Professional Development11%
Economics and Marketing6%
Integrated Farm/Ranch Systems5%
Natural Resource Protection5%
Community Development2%

Source: "Ten years of SARE," SARE 1998 Project Highlights, USDA Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education Project, pp. 1-2, Washington, D.C.

Return to Gene Exchange contents

Return to top of page

Union of Concerned Scientists
2 Brattle Square, Cambridge, MA 02238-9105