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
April 27, 2015 - This week I received another interesting email blast from Peter Diamandis addressing the future of agriculture and food.
April 26, 2015 - A battery-powered rocket? Who would have thunk it?
Well a combined U.S. and New Zealand defense research company, Rocket Lab, partially funded by DARPA and venture capitalists, has developed a rocket called the Electron.
The famous Austrian poet and novelist Rainer Maria Rilke once wrote,
The future enters into us, in order to transform itself in us, long before it happens.
April 25, 2015 - It is good to know that we humans have done our audit and determined what the oceans are worth.
April 22, 2015 - The world needs more scientists, more people trained to understand the six principles behind scientific thinking. What are we talking about?