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Dirk Benson

Head of Seeds Product Selection and Development, Syngenta

Expert Bio

Dirk is currently Head of Seeds Product Selection in Syngenta R&D. He has had numerous positions in a number of companies in the seed industry including sales management, international marketing, corn breeder, breeding management and development manager for biotech projects. He joined Syngenta as a Project Leader in 1996. He holds BS and Ph.D. degrees from Cornell University.

Studies, Articles and Answers

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Question

Q: Can GMOs only be made by large companies with a lot of money and equipment?

Answered By Dirk Benson - May 27, 2014

A: Many small companies and universities can and do create GMOs. The process to create GMOs is well understood and straightforward. However, few have developed commercial GMOs. The challenge is that the expense and expertise necessary for global regulatory approval can be prohibitive (published papers estimate costs to develop and secure regulatory approval for a GMO to be approximately $150 million and up). A large portion of costs is devoted to the safety and environmental studies that are submitted as part of the regulatory dossiers that must be presented to government agencies. These studies [...]

Business Practices Other

Question

Q: I was told at a farmers market that GMO corn is now only used for animal consumption and not for human consumption. he said corn bought at supermarkets is not GMO. Is this true?

Answered By Dirk Benson - Feb 13, 2015

A: There are two main types of corn grown in the United States: field corn and sweet corn. Field corn is harvested after the corn kernels are dry in the field, and is used for a variety of purposes, including livestock and animal feed. The type of corn that you purchase in the grocery store is sweet corn. Both field and sweet corn can be GM or non-GM varieties. Therefore, the corn in your local produce aisle could be GM corn. In this article, Noah Hultgren with the Minnesota Corn Growers Association explains the difference between field and sweet corn, and explains, “When most people thin [...]

Health & Safety

Question

Q: what are the genes in genetically modified corn

Answered By Dirk Benson - May 06, 2015

A: GM corn traits are developed for a variety of reasons, but always to achieve a certain goal. For example, some GM corn traits may be for insect resistance for specific target pests, herbicide resistance for specific herbicides, or even characteristics for specific types of production, like ethanol. The Syngenta genes in GM corn are:            Cry1Ab (Insect resistance - lepidopteran)/PAT (phosphinothricin-N-acetyltransferase) (herbicide tolerance - glufosinate)          dmEPSPS (5-enolpyruvylshikimate-3 [...]

Answered By Dr. Nicholas Storer - Mar 27, 2015

A: Corn contains about 50,000 genes, and through conventional breeding, corn breeders have created combinations of these genes to produce a crop that is highly useful within agricultural systems.  The tools of genetic engineering have enabled the addition of specific genes for new specific traits that cannot easily be developed through conventional breeding, such as season-long protection from feeding by insect pests and high levels of tolerance to specific herbicides.  For example, insecticidal proteins, such as Cry1F and Cry34/35Ab1, have been added using genes from the common soil b [...]

Answered By Tom Eickoff, Ph.D. - Mar 27, 2015

A: This is a good question and first, I would like to state that not all of the corn seed developed by Monsanto contains an inserted gene as some farmers prefer to plant conventional corn hybrids, and we continue to develop those seeds and make them available.  The ability to add specific beneficial genes to corn has enabled the use of additional tools to protect yield.  The type of genes that are added to genetically modified corn generally fall under three categories: herbicide tolerance, insect protection and drought stress protection.      Farmers have th [...]

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