Bred to Resist Insect Pests GMO Crops Cause Less Damage to Biodiversity than Non-GMO
For those who think that GMO equals "Franken" crops and the introduction of transgenic plants that will ultimately destroy our biodiversity, think again. It turns out according to a study recently reported in the Journal Nature that cotton containing a crystal-like protein labelled Bt, short for Bacillus thuringiensis, has been planted in small plots in China and studied over two decades. Bt crystal proteins a subject which I have written about before, are poisonous to insects. They have been in use for more than 60 years and are considered safe for non-target organisms and for human and animal consumption. But Bt insecticides have a short shelf life and need to be constantly applied to fields to have a longer-term impact on insect pests.
When Bt crystal proteins were implanted into corn and cotton, these altered plants retained the toxicity of the crystal proteins throughout the growing cycle and bollworms that tried to eat the cotton died. Compared to non-Bt crops today's farmers of the latter have to apply insecticide as much as 15 times each growing season. But those planting Bt Cotton find themselves using 60% less pesticide in their fields. This allows spiders, ladybugs, lacewings and other beneficial insect predators to be unaffected. Ladybugs and lacewings are particularly valued because they eat the cotton aphid. So by incorporating GMO crops farmers use fewer chemicals and do less collateral damage to the environment.
Another interesting aspect of the Bt story relates to the type of agriculture practiced in China. Unlike North America, Chinese farm holdings are small and farmers plant conventional crops right next to fields growing Bt Cotton. This has given bollworms a refuge from exposure to Bt allowing them to continue the gene pool so that a Bt resistant strain of the insect has not yet evolved. This practice provides an interesting balancing act that we don't see here in North American farms which are much larger and tend to plant a single crop.
Essays and comments posted in World Future Society and THE FUTURIST magazine blog portion of this site are the intellectual property of the authors, who retain full responsibility for and rights to their content. For permission to publish, distribute copies, use excerpts, etc., please contact the author. The opinions expressed are those of the author. The World Future Society takes no stand on what the future will or should be like.
KEEP UP WITH WFS NEWS & UPCOMING EVENTS
October 8, 2015 - In the past five years 33% of all new medicines approved by the American Food and Drug Administration have focused on rare disorders often called "orphan diseases." A category that numbers approximately 7,000, "orphan diseases" impact 350 million people around the planet. The best known is cystic fibrosis.
October 7, 2015 - Small island nations are most vulnerable to fluctuating energy costs. They also are most vulnerable to climate change. It makes sense, therefore, that their governments take the lead in finding a path to a sustainable future that doesn't rely on fossil fuels.
October 5, 2015 - All the boxes have been unpacked. All the cupboards are stuffed to the gills. Finally I can begin to get back to what I like doing, writing about science, technology and the future.
October 2, 2015 - This last week has proven to be tougher than both my wife and I thought. Moving at our age leads to lots of aches and pains. There is only so much that these old bones and muscles can endure before they protest seeking acetaminophen or something stronger to stop the ache.
Money is the primary mechanism for storing and exchanging value, especially in our daily purchases, and it’s heading rapidly into a faster, smarter and more mobile future. Nevertheless, the constant in the midst of change will remain levels of human trust in the proliferating forms of money.
September 23, 2015 - In 2015 437 companies so far have factored carbon emissions in their financial planning.
September 22, 2015 - There are no geopolitical boundaries when it comes to the atmosphere. The molecules of air I exhale right now at some point may find their way to China and back again.
September 21, 2015 - One of the most interesting 21st century phenomenon is the rise of an entirely new type of business built on the infrastructure of the Internet and designed not just to make money but to provide a public benefit as well. In the past public benefit was something delivered by government. Think libraries and hospitals.