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.]

Glyphosate-Resistant Weeds A Growing Major Problem Worldwide

The overuse of glyphosate has led to a global situation where glyphosate-resistant weeds are spreading rapidly. The worst infestations and greatest economic impact are seen in countries growing GM glyphosate-resistant crops. […]

The Fall of GM Cotton in India

A report explores the rise and fall of GM cotton in India as more Indian farmers return to organic cotton. Worldwide, GM cotton farmers are struggling with increased pesticide use to deal with the emergence of pest resistance and secondary pests. […]

Roundup Harms Soil Fungus At Far Below Permissible Doses

Research shows that Roundup caused metabolic disturbances in an important soil fungus at doses far below the recommended agricultural application rate, raising the possibility that herbicide residues may add toxic properties to a final GM plant product. […]

New research finds common herbicides cause antibiotic resistance

New research confirms that the active ingredients of the commonly used herbicides, RoundUp, Kamba and 2,4-D (glyphosate, dicamba and 2,4-D, respectively), each alone cause antibiotic resistance at concentrations well below label application rates. […]

Bt Toxins in GM Crops More Toxic Than Natural Bt Toxins

A peer-reviewed analysis comparing GMO and natural Bt proteins has found clear differences between the two, and that the process of inserting Bt toxins into crops causes them to be more toxic and active against many more species. […]

Companies Admit Failure of Cry1F (Bt) Gene to Control the Western Bean Cutworm

In an unprecedented move, DuPont Pioneer has changed its marketing language to state that Cry1F, the Herculex I Bt trait, no longer protects corn against the western bean cutworm. Dow AgroSciences is following suit. […]

FAQs on Water Efficient Maize for Africa (WEMA)

Frequently Asked Questions on Water Efficient Maize for Africa (WEMA), published by the African Centre for Biodiversity and Third World Network. […]

Current Status of the Water Efficient Maize in Africa (WEMA) Project

This paper examines the Water Efficient Maize for Africa (WEMA) project being rolled out in Kenya, Mozambique, South Africa, Tanzania and Uganda. […]

States in the US Take Action As Dicamba Damage Grows

Dicamba, used in conjunction with GM dicamba-resistant crops, has caused widespread damage to crops not resistant to the herbicide in the USA, leading to states taking action which include a ban and other restrictions. […]

Bt Cotton Being Field-Trialled in Swaziland Despite Poor Performance in Africa

Bt cotton is being field-trialled in Swaziland in spite of its poor performance in Burkino Faso and South Africa. Civil society is calling for a return to ecological cotton production which is proving successful in West Africa. […]

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