March 12, 2008

VANCOUVER, Canada (AFP) — A planned increase in US ethanol production from corn would spell environmental “disaster” for marine species in the Gulf of Mexico, said a co-author of a science study published Monday.

A boost in corn production will worsen the Gulf’s so-called “dead zone,” an area with so little oxygen that sealife suffocates, said Simon Donner, a geographer at the University of British Columbia in Western Canada.

“Most organisms are not able to survive without enough oxygen,” Donner told AFP. “All the bottom-dwelling organisms that can’t move away are probably going to die, while fish will migrate if they can.”

Donner and Chris Kucharik of the University of Wisconsin used computer models to conclude that growing enough corn to meet US biofuel goals set for 2022 would cause a boost of 10 to 34 percent in nitrogen pollution in the Mississippi and Atchafalaya Rivers, which run into the Gulf of Mexico.

In turn, the study said, there will be more than a 95 percent probability of failure in American targets to reduce the Gulf dead zone.

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