In her Political Diary item on June 26, Allysia Finley wrote that California has "insane water rationing" policies and that Californians "pay dearly for their government's green sanctimony." She's correct. And there's another example: Santa Cruz, Mendocino and Marin counties—all of which boast politically correct, far-left politics—are among the local jurisdictions that have banned a proven technology that could conserve vast amounts of water.

The technology is genetic engineering performed with modern molecular techniques, sometimes referred to as genetic modification (GM) or gene-splicing, which enables plant breeders to make old crop plants do spectacular new things, including conserve water. Throughout the U.S. and in about 30 other countries, farmers are using genetically engineered crop varieties to produce higher yields with lower inputs and reduced impacts on the environment.

Because irrigation for agriculture accounts for roughly 70 percent of the world's fresh water consumption, the introduction of plants that grow with less water would allow much of it to be freed up for other uses. Especially during drought conditions such as those found throughout California, even a small percentage reduction in the use of water for irrigation could result in huge benefits to farmers and consumers.

Plant biologists have identified genes that regulate water use and transferred them into important crop plants. These new varieties grow with smaller amounts of water or with lower-quality water, such as that which has been recycled or that is high in natural mineral salts. For example, Egyptian researchers showed a decade ago that by transferring a single gene from barley to wheat, the plants can tolerate reduced watering for a longer period of time. This new, drought-resistant variety requires only one-eighth as much irrigation as conventional wheat and in some deserts can be cultivated with rainfall alone.

One genetically engineered, drought resistant corn variety has been commercialized in the U.S., and many more are in advanced field testing. How successful they'll be might depend on whether green activists and politicians have enough sense to come in out of the rain.

Dr. Miller, a physician and molecular biologist, is a research fellow at Stanford University's Hoover Institution.

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