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.]

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. […]

Damage from Dicamba Drift Grows Across the U.S.

Damage to crops from dicamba drift from GE dicamba-tolerant soybean fields in the US cover at least 10 states with state regulators struggling to keep up with the pace of complaints. […]

Questionable Claims of Bt Efficacy Against the Fall Armyworm in Africa

Questions arise over claims made by the Water Efficient Maize for Africa Project that Bt maize is a solution to combat the fall armyworm pest. Instead, African governments are called to implement sustainable agroecological strategies to deal with the pest […]

US FDA Finds Low β-Carotene Content in Golden Rice

The US FDA has found that the concentration of β-carotene in GM Golden Rice is too low to warrant a nutrient content claim. […]

Using CRISPR-Cas9 to Engineer Virus Resistance in Cassava Triggers Evolution of Novel Virus

This study found that using CRISPR-Cas9 to engineer resistance to geminiviruses in cassava resulted in the emergence of a CRISPR-resistant mutant virus, highlighting the potential for CRISPR-systems to trigger the evolution of new viruses. […]

Monsanto Puts Off Introduction of Second Generation Bt Soybean in the US

Monsanto has indefinitely cancelled its plans to introduce Intacta 2 Xtend, its second generation Bt soybean, in the U.S., most likely due to indications of insect resistance to the Bt proteins in the new product. […]

Pink Bollworm Resistance to Bt Cotton in India

Severe pink bollworm infestation has swept through the cotton-growing states of India due to evolved resistance to GM Bt cotton, which covers 90% of Indian cotton land. […]

Increasing Bollworm Resistance Found in Bt Cotton Belt of Texas

Cotton farmers across Texas are expected to face a growing bollworm problem this season with up to 40% crop losses reported last year due to increasing resistance of the bollworm to Bt cotton and Bt corn being grown in the southern states of the US. […]

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