Traits in Agriculture

Food safety, food security and food sovereignty are the goals of sustainable agriculture in most societies. For agriculture to be sustainable there must be conservation of agricultural and wild biodiversity, soil and water management that minimizes external inputs, and technologies and practices that respect the laws of nature in all its complexities.

The measurement of productivity is then also holistic, taking into account specific food crop yields, multiple crops as opposed to monocultures, nutrition from wild biodiversity (including fisheries) and the ecological capital of soil, water and seeds. Maintaining a healthy ecosystem and environment is also essential to ensure long-term sustainable productivity.

Agricultural biotechnology, in particular gene technology, is used to introduce various traits into a range of food crops, especially the world’s staple food crops. Crops engineered for herbicide tolerance and pest resistance are the most known, commercialized GMOs. Criticisms have been made that the needs of developing countries are not served by current GM crop plants. However, there are flaws in adopting such a reductionist approach which focuses on specific traits in agriculture, when evidence points to holistic approaches to agriculture and sound ecosystem management as the way forward for sustainable agriculture.

Biosafety concerns over agricultural biotechnology include transgenic instability, the emergence of volunteers and weeds (including “superweeds”), impact on non-target species, pest resistance and transgenic contamination.

Horizontal gene transfer is increasingly recognized as a phenomenon of great concern. Gene-transfer vectors can facilitate horizontal gene transfer and recombination, leading to the spread of antibiotic resistance (through the use of antibiotic resistant marker genes) and new pathogens. An emerging concern is the potential creation of new viruses as a result of probable recombination of the promoter from cauliflower mosaic virus (CaMV) with other viruses. The CaMV promoter is routinely used to drive gene expression in crop plants engineered for herbicide or disease resistance.

These hazards can impact negatively on biodiversity and the environment. Human and animal health impacts of concern include toxic and allergenic effects, as well as probable new diseases.

Thus it is important and necessary to constantly deepen our knowledge and understanding of the consequences of the genetic modification techniques and processes that are used in manipulating traits in agriculture.

[Note: In a separate page on this website, entitled “Agriculture/Organisms” we post articles and reports that discuss a wider range of issues, including socio-economic aspects of biosafety, as they relate to agricultural crops.]

Uncertain Future for Dicamba after US Court Makes Its Use Illegal

The US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit has overturned the Environmental Protection Agency’s approval of the herbicide dicamba, increasingly used in conjunction with GM crops, saying the agency failed to properly assess the risks of its widespread use. […]

Will Farmers in the Philippines Plant Golden Rice?

A study examined whether commercial farmers would plant Golden Rice in the Philippines and found that they were unlikely to, unless offered specific inducements to do so. […]

Golden Rice is Not a Solution to Vitamin A Deficiency

There are several reasons why Golden Rice is not the answer to Vitamin A deficiency. […]

South Africa Rejects Monsanto’s Drought-Tolerant Maize

The South African government has refused a general release application for GM drought-tolerant maize event MON87460 x MON89034 x NK603, citing the lack of yield protection in water-limited conditions among the reasons for rejection. […]

Call To Rethink Genetically Engineered Herbicide-Tolerant Crops

Canadian civil society groups are objecting to an application for approval of a GE corn tolerant to four herbicides: dicamba, 2,4-D, quizalofop, and glufosinate, while calling for a review of the environmental, health, agronomic and economic impacts of the use of such crops. […]

Pests Surviving Vip3A Toxin in Bt Corn and Bt Cotton in the US

Entomologists across the South of the USA are reporting increased feeding and survival of the corn earworm/cotton bollworm in Bt corn and cotton fields expressing the Vip3A protein, once believed to be the final Bt stronghold against the pest. […]

Rapid Loss of Beta Carotene in Golden Rice

Golden Rice can lose up to 84% of its beta carotene in six months, unless preserved in refrigerated conditions in vacuum packaging as paddy, questioning its ability to alleviate Vitamin A deficiency in poor countries. […]

2,4-D Expected to be Sprayed on Millions of Acres of New GM Soy in the US

2,4-D, a volatile weed-killer linked to cancer and endocrine issues, will likely be sprayed on millions of acres of GM soybeans across the Midwest and South of the USA starting this year. […]

Efficacy of Bt Pyramided Crops in Question

Studies are showing that insect resistance development can occur with pyramided Bt crops, diminishing their efficacy. […]

Compelling Link Between Glyphosate-based Herbicides and Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma

Meta-analysis finds compelling evidence that people with high exposures to glyphosate-based herbicides have an increased risk of developing non-Hodgkin lymphoma. […]

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