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The Des Moines Register

Biotech in Africa: Titans Battle on the African Front (Part 4)

The bitter battle that seed giants Monsanto Co. and Pioneer Hi-Bred wage for the hearts and pocketbooks of farmers doesn't end in the United States. They're going at it in Africa, too.

The profit potential in Africa is limited. Production of corn, the two companies' signature food crop, is dominated in Africa by poor, smallholder farmers, who often till two or three acres at the most. There is little commercial-scale corn production outside of South Africa.

Biotech in Africa: Researchers Prepare for Field Tests

There's nothing like rain to wreck the field trial of a crop designed to resist drought. So an arid plain south of Nairobi is considered a good place to test drought-resistant biotech corn seeds: It doesn't rain for six months at a time.

Those long dry periods allow scientists to test the crop by stopping irrigation during critical periods, such as when plants flower.

Biotech in Africa: High Hopes and High Stakes (Part 1)

Fog shrouds the terraced hills, and a stream is swollen from the rain that fell overnight, but the damage of a drought that left 10 million Kenyans dependent on food aid is still evident. On many of the small farms, the ground is bare at a time when corn crops should be several feet tall.

"We had no maize because we planted and there was no rain," said Victor Mutua, who feeds an extended family of 15 from his 20-acre plot.