Hello, I'm Mark Pearson.
The nation's investors, already anxious about the prospect of war, are being soaked by a deluge of mixed economic signals.
For example, sales of previously owned homes soared to a record monthly high in January, even as new home sales fell by the greatest amount in 9 years.
Factory orders for big-ticket items were up sharply in January, but the February report showed consumer confidence plunging to 10-year lows.
The same is, of course, true for Rural America. But for some farmers this week there was news that a new biotech tool will be available this spring.
This week, biotech leader Monsanto received approval from the EPA for the first genetically modified variety of corn that kills corn rootworms. Going by the name YieldGard Rootworm, the product uses a strain of Bacillus Thuringiensis, or Bt, to kill what has been labeled the "Billion Dollar Bug" due to the damage it inflicts on crops.
It is estimated that 30 million of the 80 million acres planted in corn are affected by rootworms. Monsanto is making available enough of the landmark seed for 1-million acres to be planted during the 2003 growing season. Producers who choose the new strain will be required to plant 20% of their acres in a non-GM variety.
With the federal stamp of approval, the grain can be exported to Japan but, as yet, not the European Union. The European market, which is estimated to be worth $300-million to U.S. corn exporters, has been closed to new GM varieties for more than four years. This month, EU officials indicated a "science based" approval system could be on-line by mid-year. Even so, Monsanto is telling farmers to keep track of the new product and sell it domestically in the event world-wide approval does not come by harvest.