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Environmental Safety of Genetically Engineered Crops

Rebecca Grumet

Publication Year: 2011

Since the mid-1990s, when the technology was first introduced, the cultivation of genetically engineered (GE) crops has grown exponentially. In the U.S. alone, adoption rates for transgenic cotton, corn, and soybeans are between 70–90%. Across the globe, 14 million farmers grow GE crops in more than twenty countries. Yet many countries are discussing and debating the use and adoption of GE technology because of concerns about their impact on the environment and human health. Now, in this comprehensive handbook, a team of international experts present the scientific basis for GE crops, placing them in the context of current agricultural systems, and examining the potential environmental risks posed by their deployment. An integrated approach to an increasingly hot and globally debated topic, the book considers the past, present, and future of GE crops, and offers an invaluable perspective for regulation and policy development.

Published by: Michigan State University Press

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. vii-viii

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pp. ix-x

Genetically engineered crops provide uncommon opportunities to breed varieties that possess novel genetic combinations capable of conferring tolerance to a wide range of biotic and abiotic stresses. With the onset of the era of climate change, we will need genetic material capable of withstanding unfavorable alterations in temperature, precipitation, and sea level. Biodiversity is the feedstock for a climate-resilient farming system. Biodiversity ...

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pp. xi-xii

Humans have an enormous capacity to alter the environment around them, a fact that has become increasingly evident in recent years. With that capacity comes responsibility, and often conflicting imperatives. How do we achieve the right balance between food security, human health, nutrition, sanitation, quality of life, and environmental sustainability? To what extent can new technologies help us achieve that balance, or drive us to further, and ...

Part 1: Introduction to Environmental Biosafety in Relation to Genetically Engineered Crops

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Production of Genetically Engineered Crops, Relationship to Conventional Plant Breeding, and Implications for Safety Assessment

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pp. 3-14

Genetically engineered (GE) crops are developed using a combination of genetic engineering (recombinant DNA technologies) and conventional plant breeding methods. The novelty of techniques employed in introducing new genes and traits into these crops through genetic engineering has prompted extensive debate, and has led to the establishment of regulations at national and international levels to ensure safe deployment. As a starting point for discussions of environmental safety in subsequent chapters, this chapter will provide an introduction

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Environmental Issues Associated with Agricultural Production Systems

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pp. 15-20

Degradation of soil has been an issue since the onset of agriculture. Tillage disturbance of soil for seedbed preparation, weed control, and the addition of nutritional amendments is an integral part of agriculture. These practices, though historically essential for food production, have resulted in tremendous soil erosion and loss of soil productivity on a global basis. Lal (2003) estimates that water and wind erosion affect 1,094 and 549 million hectares annually, leading to loss of soil on-site. Erosion is particularly problematic in regions with sloping land, ...

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Environmental Biosafety Issues Associated with Genetically Engineered Crops

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pp. 21-30

Biotechnological tools allow the transfer of DNA between distantly related species. These techniques have facilitated the engineering of novel traits into crops, including insect resistance, herbicide tolerance, virus resistance and nutritional enhancement. The most widely deployed genetically engineered (GE) crops today contain insect resistance and herbicide tolerance, with farmers in over 25 countries growing these crops (James 2008). Many other traits are in the pipeline, such as tolerance to drought and cold and increases in ...

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Current Status of Genetically Engineered Crops and Assessment of Environmental Impacts

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pp. 31-46

Genetically engineered (GE) crops have been commercially grown since 1996, when the first such crops were planted in the United States. Since then, the adoption of these crops has been rapid. James (2009) has provided an global overview of the current status of these crops: a total of roughly 134 million hectares (330 million acres) were grown worldwide in 2008; plantings of genetically engineered crops expanded from the the United States to 25 countries; North America was the largest producer of GE crops (the United States ...

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Future Possible Genetically Engineered Crops and Traits and Their Potential Environmental Impacts

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pp. 47-58

The “first wave” of genetically engineered (GE) crops was focused nearly exclusively on very high acreage crops and a handful of readily cloned, highly effective genes conferring insect resistance and herbicide tolerance (table 1). There were also a few instances of genetically engineered virus resistance in squash and papaya, but together they have accounted for less than 0.1% of transgenic acreage (Brookes and Barfoot 2006; James 2006)....

Part 2: Environmental Considerations Associated with Genetically Engineered Crops

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Factors Influencing the Genetic Diversity of Plant Species and the Potential Impact of Transgene Movement

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pp. 61-74

Biodiversity in native and agroecosystems is a function of species composition (number of species, relative abundance) and the genetic makeup of individual species. Biodiversity is negatively affected if there are reductions in species abundance or levels of genetic diversity within species. The potential impact of a GE crop on biodiversity will depend on the invasiveness of the crop itself and changes in the competitive ability of any relatives that receive a transgene through hybridization. Herein, I will discuss the major ...

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Control and Monitoring of Gene Flow from Genetically Engineered Crops

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pp. 75-86

In this chapter, we will briefly describe the concepts associated with confined field trials and explore the methods employed to prevent gene flow, manage risk, and ensure that such trials are done safely. We will discuss how to evaluate the risk of transgene escape into the environment via pollen and seed dispersal for unconfined release. We will also describe some of the technologies that can be used to prevent transgene flow, and the potential for monitoring for transgene escape....

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Evaluation of Potential Impacts of Genetically Engineered Plant-Incorporated Protectants on Non-Target Organisms

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pp. 87-104

Agricultural biotechnology has fundamentally changed the way crops can be genetically modified to provide resistance to pests. Genetically engineered (GE) crops that express insect-pest resistance traits could facilitate a shift away from the reliance on broad-spectrum insecticides and toward biological-based pest management. Like any insect control technology, GE crops may present a risk to beneficial insects such as the natural enemy community, pollinators, and organisms involved in decomposition and nutrient cycling. The use...

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Pests Resistant to Pesticides and Genetically Modified Crop Plants: Theory and Management

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pp. 105-122

Pesticide resistance is one of the most common problems in managing insects, diseases, and weeds. Hundreds of species of insects have developed resistance to one or more insecticides, and insect pests such as the diamondback moth, the Colorado potato beetle, and the green peach aphid are resistant to 40 or more insecticides in multiple chemical families (Whalon et al. 2010; Onstad 2008). Resistance to herbicides is also very common in ...

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A Problem-Based Approach to Environmental Risk Assessment of Genetically Engineered Crops

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pp. 123-128

One of the most difficult problems facing regulatory bodies that make decisions regarding environmental biosafety of GE crops is determining what constitutes sufficient data to make risk assessments. To efficiently assess the potential impact of a GE crop, decisions must first be made about which specific issues are of concern to regulatory agencies. The list of what could be affected by a GE crop is almost endless, when one considers all the possible organisms that it can potentially come in contact with. The key to developing an efficient, reliable regulatory system is to establish a systematic risk assessment process that allows ...

Part 3: Regulation of Genetically Engineered Crops with Respect to Environmental Safety

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The Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety and Other International Regulations

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pp. 131-146

Once begun more than two decades ago, the development and use of biotechnology has been rapid, widespread, and accompanied by no small measure of controversy. The breadth and vigor of the controversy reflects widely divergent views of the safety and potential benefits of biotechnology products, especially those such as transgenic crops intended for release into the environment. Consequently, there has been a strong interest in establishing policies and procedures to ensure that these products are appropriately regulated both nationally and internationally. In response to this need, a variety of international environmental and ...

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Systems to Regulate Genetically Engineered Plants: Similarities and Differences among Countries

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pp. 147-156

In 1986, the United States was the first country to establish its regulatory authority for genetically engineered organisms when it published its “Coordinated Framework for the Regulation of Biotechnology.” The global community has since then gained experience in the regulation of genetically engineered plants during the 20 years since genetically engineered organisms were first regulated, and a growing list of plants have been safely approved for experimental and commercial use. Yet, considering that human beings have been ...

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Bio-Innovationsand the Economics of Biosafety Regulatory Decision Making and Design in Developing Countries

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pp. 157-172

Bio-innovations such as genetically modified organisms (GMOs)1 have shown great promise in addressing specific needs of farmers in developing and advanced countries. In the early 1980s, when the first genetically modified (GM) technologies were released into the environment, there was relatively little knowledge about the potential environmental and health effects of releasing GMOs. The novelty of GMO innovations led scientists and policymakers to design and implement protocols and procedures that would ensure proper ...

Part 4: Future Challenges and Opportunities

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Risk-Benefit Communication for Transgenic Crops

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pp. 175-188

Risk-benefit communication is an important component of the development and commercialization of biotechnology products across all sectors: health, agriculture, industry, and environment. This chapter is limited to the role that risk-benefit communication plays during transgenic crop development and the subsequent release and use of these crops by growers. Although we focus primarily on risk communication, information on the benefits of new biotechnology products in agriculture is also essential for informed decision...

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Capacity Building in Biosafety

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pp. 189-208

The recent advances of modern biotechnology, when properly applied in agriculture, offer significant potential to enhance agricultural productivity, food and nutritional security, economic growth, and environmental quality globally (Karanja 2003; Kent and Monium 2002; Ruane and Zimmermann 2001). Modern biotechnology provides plant breeders with tools to introduce new traits into crop plants that could not have been produced ...

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The Evolving International Regulatory Regime: Impact on Agricultural Development

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pp. 209-224

Biotechnology has become an important and integral tool for research aimed at increasing the efficiency and sustainability of agriculture and food production. However, as with other new technologies, its technical, social, and economic implications have created concerns. The special nature of biotechnology, as a means to manipulate living organisms, creates debate. Regulatory systems are one way for society to find a balance among the ...


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pp. 225-230


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pp. 231-235

E-ISBN-13: 9781609172275
Print-ISBN-13: 9781611860085

Page Count: 246
Publication Year: 2011