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.]

Bt Toxins in GE Plants Can Be Much Higher Than Previously Known

Monsanto data from 1990 reveal that Bt toxins expressed in GE plants can be up to 20 times more toxic than natural Bt toxins but this has thus far been ignored in risk assessments. […]

Study Finds Roundup Causes Harm to Daphnia, Demonstrating Risks to Wildlife

A study found that Roundup caused embryonic development failure, significant DNA damage, and interference with metabolism and gut function of Daphnia, demonstrating the risk of harm to wildlife through prolonged exposure, even at low doses. […]

How Corporations Forced GE Dicamba-Tolerant Crops onto US Farmers

An investigation finds that Monsanto and BASF knew their dicamba weed killers used with GE dicamba-tolerant crops would cause large-scale damage to fields across the US but pushed them on unsuspecting farmers anyway, in a bid to corner the soybean and cotton markets. […]

US EPA Proposes to Phase Out Almost All Bt Corn and Cotton Due to Insect Resistance

In an effort to stave off above-ground insect resistance, the US EPA has proposed phasing out many current Bt corn hybrids, as well as some Bt cotton varieties, in the next three to five years. […]

Glyphosate-based Herbicides Cause Unintended Effects Even in Glyphosate-Tolerant Soy

Glyphosate-based herbicides can adversely affect the physiological processes of plants, even those genetically modified to be tolerant to them, and more so in GM stacked varieties. […]

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. […]

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