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
May 27, 2015 - In the last week or so we've seen the convergence of energy companies and climate change action in a number of announcements from the fossil fuel industry. I share these with you because they illustrate the beginning of a change in attitude from positions of keeping the status quo to acknowledgement of the validity of the science of climate change.
May 24, 2015 - What started as a social media phenomenon on many university campuses has blossomed into a global movement by institutions, corporations, foundations, pension funds and even governments. It involves wiping hands clean of stocks and bonds issued by fossil fuel companies.
May 22, 2015 - California has a lot of negatives going on right now. It is in the middle of the worst drought the state has experienced since records were kept, watching its in-state and out-of-state water reserves dry up. It is over populated and yet still a draw for tens of thousands of illegal immigrant crossing from Mexico each year. And it is perennially in debt.
May 22, 2015 - Researchers at Hebrew University of Jerusalem have developed a product that oxidizes soil polluted by oil and other contaminants.
May 21, 2015 - This week in Paris world business leaders have gathered to talk about climate change and investment. Two months ago 266 large investors responsible for managing $20 trillion U.S.
May 20, 2015 - An Antarctic ice shelf located on the continent's peninsula that juts northward towards South America is expected to collapse into the Southern Ocean possibly within the next few decades.