The Catastrophe Lurking In America's Farmlands

In a few weeks, the rich soil of the Midwest will erupt with tender seedlings whose genetic pedigrees are as distinguished as the bloodlines of Grindstone, this year's Kentucky Derby winner. These modern, scientifically bred crop varieties have helped boost the yields of farmers to levels that were once unimaginable. That spectacular success, however, carries a price: The world's harvests face a greater threat from pests and diseases than ever before. Just as a tiny misstep can end the career of a million-dollar racehorse, a minor outbreak of disease can lead to a catastrophic collapse of harvests around the world.

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