Monthly Archives: March 2014

Genetically Modified Organisms: An Agricultural Students Perspective (part 2 of 4)

The use of genetically modified crops has increased dramatically since the adoption of the genetically modified seed.  The reasons for this seem clear to Pamela Ronald.  In a paper titled “The Truth about GMO’s” Ronald states, “Yet one need only observe the overwhelming farmer adoption of GE crops in the United States and elsewhere to conclude that the GE crop varieties on the market are useful to farmers.  It is unlikely that experienced and skilled farmers would buy GE seeds if their farm operations did not benefit economically.”  (refer to image 1)  Three major genetically modified crops in the United States are soybeans, cotton and corn.  Specifically they are herbicide tolerant (Ht) Soybeans, (Ht) Cotton, Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) Cotton, Bt Corn and Ht Corn. (Rezbova, 2012)  From a large farm perspective, the benefits of GMO crops, appears to be clear. (Ronald, 2013) 

Agriculturalists have made it their goal to feed the world.  Transgenic GMO’s are in demand because the world is unable to increase the amount of acreage under cultivation.  Environmental concerns, energy concerns, and population growth are the cause of this.  Due to this goal, humans must increase the yield of crops in order to meet the nutritional demands of the species worldwide.  Genetically modified crops supply feed for animals (typically in feed yards) as well as fiber and alternative fuels. (Rezbova, 2012)  Additionally, nearly every processed food in the United States contains transgenic GMO’s.

Misconceptions among non-agriculturalists concerning arable land and pastureland lead to differences of opinion on the ability to increase crop yields.  Some individuals believe that agriculturalists should decrease animal production in favor of fruit and vegetable crop production.  Fruits and vegetables are only capable of growing in certain environments.  Pastureland will not support typical fruit and vegetable crop production.  The grasses of pastureland are inedible to humans.  Therefore, agriculturalists produce livestock on pasture.  Agriculturalists use the pastureland to start livestock and then agriculturalists typically finish the livestock in feed yards.  This allows the agriculturalist to convert the inedible pasture crops into high quality meat and milk for human consumption.  Changing cropping systems would endanger the soil.  In addition, maintaining the pasture decreases erosion that would exist in the event of a change in cropping practices. (Technolgy)  The remnants of the food produced for human consumption are recycled as a part of the feed for the livestock.  The deployment of transgenic GMO’s as food, fiber, and fuel have increased with little mainstream scientific dispute to individual health or damage to the environment. (Technolgy)

The intention of Bt enhanced crops that produce their own pesticide is to allow the farmer to decrease pesticide use.  The farmer must however plant a second field as a “refuge strategy” in order to decrease the incidence of insect resistance to the crop. (Ronald, 2013)  Traditional research shows the use of Ht crops allows the farmer to treat for weeds with greater success and less harm to the farmer’s crop.  Both of these are great benefits in terms of time-spent.  The saved time allows the farmer to focus on other aspects of the business.  This allows the farmer to increase the yield and decrease the cost of the product.

However, controversy about transgenic GMO’s is abundant in spite of mainstream successes.  There are strong reservations about the ethics of patenting seed, developing terminator technology, and the interrelationship of governmental agencies and agricultural companies.  In addition, some believe the safety of transgenic GMO’s is unproven.  Fears persist that transgenic GMO’s are the cause of harm to unwitting consumers.  It is difficult to determine the presence of transgenic GMO’s in the food supply because there is no legal requirement to label them in the United States.

End of 2 of 4: References posted at end of 1 of 4

UPDATE: Since the writing of this paper I have discovered that Pamela Ronald (cited in the above paper) retracted two of her pro-GMO studies that have been cited by more than 120 other paper.  The article where I discovered this is here.  

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Genetically Modified Organisms: An Agricultural Students Perspective (part 1 of 4)

The use of genetically engineered crops, often called transgenic genetically modified organisms (GMO’s), in the United States has been prevalent since the introduction of the FlavrSavr transgenic tomato in 1994. (A Brief History of Genetic Modification, unknown)  Since the introduction of this crop, there has been widespread disagreement about the efficacy and ethics of using genetically engineered foods in agricultural cropping systems.  The producers of these crops hold them in high regard.  Many environmentalists and health advocates fear these crops as potentially dangerous to the human body as well as the environment. 

The history of genetically modified crops is as long as the history of agricultural systems.  Cultivating crops has always been a sort of genetic engineering.  The process of taking two crops to produce an improved seed from those crops is a form of genetic engineering.  Organic seed saving alters the species.  The organic seed in use today is significantly different from those of prior generations.  Seed saving has allowed the farmer to develop crops with higher yields and greater resistance to climate, disease, and insects.  Seed saving allows the farmer, without the use of genetic engineering, the ability to select the genetically superior seeds through the natural reproductive cycle of crops.  The current technology of transgenic crops is one of artificially taking DNA from one species and adding it to the DNA of another species.  

The current definition of a transgenic genetically modified crop is a crop that has had the genetic material (DNA) artificially modified through genetic engineering.  This process introduces a trait into a species through genetic manipulation.  The scientist selects for, and then changes, the function and growing ability of the crop.  Genetically engineering crops allows the scientist to produce a crop that is resistant to certain environmental factors such as climate, pests, and/or herbicides.  By genetically modifying a crops DNA the seed developer is able to express a trait of his/her choosing.  The seed developer’s process is swifter than otherwise possible.  The intent of the crop developer is to produce a higher yield, allowing the farmer to increase crop density with less pesticide use. 

The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations describes the process of genetically engineering a crop as follows.

1. Identification of the gene interest;

2. Isolation of the gene of interest;

3. Amplifying the gene to produce many copies;

4. Associating the gene with an appropriate promoter and poly A sequence and insertion into plasmids;

5. Multiplying the plasmid in bacteria and recovering the cloned construct for injection;

6. Transference of the construct into the recipient tissue, usually fertilized eggs;

7. Integration of gene into recipient genome;

8. Expression of gene in recipient genome; and

9. Inheritance of gene through further generations. (Beardmore, 2003)

The first transgenic genetically modified crops occurred in 1983.  China was the first nation to sell genetically engineered tobacco and tomatoes.  1988 saw the development of the first genetically engineered plant for pharmaceutical use.  The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) approved the insertion of Bovine Somatotropin (bST) into cows in the year 1993.  The insertion of bST increased the milk production in cows.  In 1993, scientists used in vitro fertilization successfully for the first time in plants.  1994 began the widespread use of genetically engineered crops in the United States with the above-mentioned FlavrSavr. (A Brief History of Genetic Modification, unknown)

The environmental protection agency (EPA) approved the sale of Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) potato making it the first crop that produced pesticides on its own.  Soon thereafter, Roundup ready soybeans were produced which gave the soybeans resistance to the glyphosate herbicide.  Agricultural companies then introduced terminator technology in 1998.  2002 saw the introduction of a patent law allowing seed companies to patent their seeds in order to protect “intellectual property.” (A Brief History of Genetic Modification, unknown)

The above innovations produced seeds with specific traits.  The introduction of Bt corn gave the GMO corn resistance to insects.  Roundup ready soybeans allowed the liberal use of glyphosate herbicide without the failure of the soybean crop.  Terminator technology created a crop that did not produce a viable seed for seed saving or replanting.

End of 1 of 4: References for all 4 parts posted below:

UPDATE: Since the writing of this paper I have discovered that Pamela Ronald (cited in the above paper) retracted two of her pro-GMO studies that have been cited by more than 120 other paper.  The article where I discovered this is here.  

References

A Brief History of Genetic Modification. (unknown, unknown unknown). Retrieved February27, 201427, 2014, from gmeducation.org: gmeducation.org

Gillam, C. (2014, February 24). Reuters. Retrieved February 27, 2014, fromwww.reuters.com 

Hansen, M. (2013, Dec 6th). GMO Study Retracted Cencorship of Caution? (S. Curwood,Interviewer)

John A Beardmore, J. S. (2003). Genetically Modified Organisms and Aquaculture. Rome,Italy.

Rezbova, H. S. (2012, June). The Role of Trangenic Crops. 4(2). Czech Republic.

Robert J Kremer, L. F. (2012, May 16). Soil Quality Improvement Under an EcologicallyBased Farming System in Northwest Missouri. Columbia, Missouri, USA.

Ronald, P. (2013, Oct). The Truth About GMO’s. 38 . Boston Review.Technolgy, C. f. (n.d.). Animal Feed Vs Human Food. 

10 Reasons to Avoid GMO. (n.d.). Retrieved February 27, 2014, from Institute for Responsible Technology: http://www.responsibletechnology.org

Times, L. A. (2013, November 30). Controversial GMO Study is Retracted. The WashingtonPost .