Agricultural biotechnology, with its promise of high crop yields and dramatic reduction in pesticide use, has been touted as the way to feed the world's escalating population and reduce environmental damage from farming. Ever since the mid-1970s, when scientists found an easy way to copy genes and then transfer them to other species, the potential benefits to agriculture seemed extraordinary. It didn't take a visionary to see that corn engineered to produce more oil might have added value as animal feed or that soybeans packed with more protein might lead to a healthier human diet. But some companies also view the fast-growing industry (20 percent annually by some estimates) as a way to stay a step ahead of increasing regulations on pesticides and maintain market dominance.
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