1.http://scope.educ.washington.edu/gmfood Copyright 2000-2004 by the SCOPE Research Group (UC Berkeley, UW, AAAS), all rights reserved.
org.uk/news/story.asp?ID=230 1998 – 2004 English Nature, Northminster House, Peterborough PE1 1UA England
http://pewagbiotech.org/resources/factsheets/display.php3?FactsheetID=2 Copyright 2004 The Pew Initiative on Food and Biotechnology
Agricultural biotechnology is a collection of scientific techniques, including genetic engineering, that are used to create, improve, or modify plants, animals, and microorganisms. Using conventional techniques, such as selective breeding, scientists have been working to improve plants and animals for human benefit for hundreds of years. Modern techniques now enable scientists to move genes (and therefore desirable traits) in ways they could not before – and with greater ease and precision (scope.educ.
Biotech food, which is genetically modified or genetically engineered, is grown from seeds that carry specific genes to produce desired characteristics. In the early 1990s, the first biotech food on the market was a tomato that ripened on the vine and could be transported without bruising. The products of agricultural biotechnology today include plants that are protected from insects or are tolerant to herbicides. Biotech foods have now made their way onto our tables.
More than a third of the corn and more than half of the soybeans in the 1999 U.S. harvest were grown from seeds produced using biotechnology.
As biotechnology crops and foods have proliferated, so have questions and concerns. European consumers, perhaps because of unrelated food scares about diseased beef and contaminated soda, are arguing to label biotech food or keep it out of stores. Consumers in the United States are starting to pay more attention to these issues.
Concerns range from food safety to environmental impact. Also framing the debate are ethical questions, including whether it is right to change the genetic makeup of a plant. Some objections that activists raise also apply to conventional crops grown with modern high-intensity agriculture.
Increasing acreage given over to GA crops is one of the most frightening aspects. The pollen from these plants can travel miles from their host via wind and insects and fertilize other non-GA crops or related weed species growing nearby. This has already happened with canola and sugar beet.
Furthermore, the genes inserted by the alteration process are more biologically vigorous and may be up to 30 times more likely to escape than the plant’s own genes. We have already seen this process take place with disastrous results with other ‘exotic’ and invasive species such as kudzu in the south, and zebra mussels in our waterways( http://www.safe-food.org/).
In some of the most publicized American research to date, Cornell University scientists reported recently that 44% of monarch butterfly larvae died within four days when fed milkweed (their exclusive food) that had been dusted with pollen from GA corn, while all the caterpillars fed normal corn pollen survived. British research has shown that beneficial insects such as ladybugs and lacewings are negatively affected by feeding on GA crops, which are supposed to only affect ‘target’ insect predators.
Study has begun on the effects on the rest of the food chain, as birds and other wildlife then feed on these insects that have consumed the GA crops. Fear of his has led English Nature (the British Government’s wildlife advisor) to warn that the introduction of GA herbicide tolerant crops "could be the final blow for species like the skylark, the linnet and the corn bunting." (www.englishnature.org).
As these novel organisms enter and alter the biosphere, there is grave concern for the effect on soil microorganisms upon which many other organisms depend.
When applied on the outside, Bt remains active only a few days in the environment. However, when engineered into the genetic structure of the plant, a recent study found it to be active in the nearby soil at least eight months later. Bt toxins are engineered into a wide range of transgenic plants already released into the environment and this build-up in the soil may have a horrible influence on pollinators and other beneficial insects.
On the contrast of this argument, many experts feel that everyone benefits from reduced food production costs. Farmers have reduced expenses, reaped higher crop yields, and used less pesticide, which is good for the environment. Biotech crops in the future will allow farmers to grow food in .