Ann Bartuska, a biologist and senior adviser to Resources for the Future, a Washington-based nonprofit, said she is “intrigued” by the potential of synthetic microbes. She described it as one of two “holy grail” ideas that have been the focus of agricultural research for the last 10 years as partial solutions to climate change.
The other idea, genetic manipulation, would turn crops like corn into perennials that don’t require replanting and heavy fertilization. But that approach is still in the laboratory stage.
Bartuska, a former deputy undersecretary of research at the Agriculture Department, worries that farmers will have to be shown how to use high-technology steps by impartial experts and learn how such techniques, carefully applied, can be measured.
Farmers’ current sources of new technology information, she added, are often bank consultants or fertilizer salesmen “who make money off of them.”