NABC Report 10: Agricultural Biotechnology and Environmental Quality: Gene Escape and Pest Resistance

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Published 1998 by NABC.

Concerns about the risks of altered genes migrating into non-crop plants and the risks of pests developing a resistance to genetically modified plant pesticides are of critical concern to people opposed to genetic engineering. Yet we cannot turn back the clock. If anything, the demand for genetically modified food and fiber crops is accelerating. Research and development, regulatory and public policy, and industrial and economic issues surround the discussion about genetic engineering. The general acceptance of agricultural biotechnology by growers is in contrast with the public’s concern, which is not always based on scientific research. In fact, some in the public question the validity of scientific research.

Bt (Bacillus thuringiensis) as an important tool against Lepidoptera, especially ones that have developed immunity to traditional pesticides. To avoid the possibility of insects becoming resistant to Bt, the EPA recommends refuges of 4 percent without any use of pesticide.

The tobacco mosaic virus resistant genes have proven very stable and durable over 25 years, but not all viruses are the same and not all risks are the same. And with more than 2,000 plant viruses, genetically engineering resistance to more than a single virus would be beneficial.

The early strength of opposition groups in Europe explain the greatly reduced level of consumer acceptance of GE crops compared to the US, Canada and Japan.

The growing world population requires an even increasing demand for food with limited area of cultivation. Genetic engineering of crops to grow under less than ideal conditions could be one of the tools to address the need for more food production. However, it is vital to keep in mind that big business calling for GE crops is never primarily concerned with the overall welfare of the public, but in their own profits.

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Recent Submissions

Now showing 1 - 10 of 16
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    The seed industry and agricultural biotechnology
    Robinson, Murray (NABC, 1998)
    The advancing knowledge of biotechnology, and the ability to manipulate plant life, requires that scientists proceed with. In breaking new ground they must be prepared for the skepticism and criticism that accompany such activity. It is important to listen to critics who support their hypotheses with credible science and sound evidence but not to accept the pressures of groups who use unfounded statements and scare tactics to halt the progress of science and the advantages it offers.
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    EPA regulation of plant-pesticides and Bt plant-pesticide resistance management
    Matten, Sharlene R. (NABC, 1998)
    The EPA regulates pesticides under two major statutory authorities: the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA), and the Federal Food Drug and Cosmetic Act (FFDCA). Under FIFRA, the EPA has the authority to regulate the development, sale, distribution, use, storage, and disposal of pesticides. It determines if a pesticide would cause an unreasonable adverse effect by considering “the economic, social, and environmental costs and benefits” of the use of the pesticides.
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    Dangerous liaison–deadly gamble
    Ho, Mae-Wan (NABC, 1998)
    Genetically engineering agriculture is unnecessary and unethical. It is based on unsound science, and the foods produced are unwholesome. It is unsustainable because the technology is hit or miss. Most of all I believe it is inherently unsafe. In the face of the wealth of existing scientific evidence and the precautionary principle, the governments should to impose a five-year moratorium on genetic engineering.
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    Sustaining the efficacy of Bt toxins
    Gould, Fred (NABC, 1998)
    Resistance management with Bt crops has forced researchers to learn a lot about the biology of the targeted insects. The EPA Science Advisory Panel Report (1998) points out that scientist should take a conservative approach in developing management plans until we know enough to make the plan requirements less stringent.
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    Pathogen derived resistance and reducing the potential to select viruses with increased virulence
    Beachy, Roger N.; Bendahmane, Mohammed (NABC, 1998)
    Pathogen derived resistance can be used to develop transgenic plants that are resistant to virus infection. It is possible to reduce both potential and perceived risks associated with the transgenes by constructing transgenes that reduce potential for insect transmission and sequence capture. Knowledge of the structural and cellular mechanisms of resistance can lead to the development of a ‘second generation’ of transgenes that have both increased efficacy and greater environmental safely.
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    Ecological aspects of genetically modified crops
    Nickson, Thomas E.; Mckee, Michael J. (NABC, 1998)
    The world’s population will increase significantly in the near future and the demand for healthy, affordable food will also grow. Given that the area of available arable land required to produce food will not expand, new and environmentally sound technologies allowing farmers to produce more on the same amount of land must be developed. The development of genetically modified crops through biotechnology is one of several technologies now available to help address the world’s increasing demand for food. Unlike their traditionally bred counterparts, genetically modified crops have been studied in great detail to assure their environmental safety.
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    Workshop report: industrial and economic perspectives
    Dodo, Hortense; Tally, Allison (NABC, 1998)
    Workshop report and recommendations
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    Paper presented to the industrial and economic perspectives workshop
    Cavalieri, Anthony J. (NABC, 1998)
    The public has an interest to manage the genes for insect resistance in a way that prolongs their useful lifetime. Increased understanding of the nature and efficiency of resistance management programs has significant value.
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    Biotechnology: is it defendable?
    Loop Jr., Carl B (NABC, 1998)
    Biotechnology is here to stay, and will grow at a fast pace. The questions now relate to its direction and boundaries. Farmers and ranchers believe in science and research as applied to our industry. To them, it is an easy step to accept the potential benefits of biotechnology. They see biotechnology as the future. But the scientific community must become more active in the educational effort to create consumer understanding of biotechnology accomplishments, that product safety is of major concern and that scientists and farmers do not want to produce products that harm consumers.
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    Workshop report: Regulatory and public policy perspectives
    Wueste, Daniel E.; Gentry, John; Schoulties, Calvin (NABC, 1998)
    Workshop report and recommendations