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.]

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. […]

Increasing Evidence of Detrimental Effects of Glyphosate-based Herbicides on Rats

Recent research found that exposure to glyphosate-based herbicides caused reproductive and developmental effects in rats, at ’safe’ dose levels. In other work, ‘generational toxicology’ of glyphosate was demonstrated; descendants of exposed rats developed prostate, kidney and ovarian diseases, obesity and birth abnormalities. […]

Widespread Damage from Dicamba Drives a Deep Wedge Between Farmers

Dicamba use in the U.S. has increased with GE dicamba-resistant crops, with a corresponding increase in damage to non-target plants. This is driving a deep wedge those farmers who use dicamba and those who don’t. […]

Herbicides Increase Antibiotic Resistance Evolution in Bacteria

Commonly used herbicides such as glyphosate and dicamba, also widely used with GM herbicide-resistant crops, can cause bacteria to develop antibiotic resistance by a factor of up to 100,000 times faster than occurs without the herbicide. […]

What Keeps GM Herbicide-Centric Agriculture in Place?

Weed control in the U.S. Midwest has become increasingly herbicide-centric due to the adoption of GM herbicide-tolerant crops.This study describes factors that hinder the movement away from the use of herbicide-tolerant technology towards integrated weed. […]

South Africa Government Rejects Monsanto’s Triple-stacked GM Drought Tolerant Maize

The South African biosafety authorities have rejected Monsanto’s application for the commercial release of its GM drought tolerant triple-stacked maize: MON 87460 x MON 89034 x NK 603. […]

Glyphosate Shown to Increase Honeybee Susceptibility to Infections

A new study has shown that glyphosate, widely used with GM herbicide-resistant crops, damages the good bacteria in honeybee guts, making them more prone to deadly infections. […]

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