Environmental Hazards Of Genetically Modified Organisms Biology Essay


Environmental hazards of GMOs can be caused by direct or indirect effects of the GMOs themselves or by transfer of genetic material to other organisms

-The spread of transgenes through GM pollen diffusion and its environmental impact after hybridization with closely related wild species or subspecies through introgressive hybridization or horizontal gene transfer

-Horizontal gene transfer from transgenic plants to soil microbes

- The impact of insecticide proteins released into the soil by transformed plants on non-target microbial soil communities.

Likely environmental risks of transgenic crops can be predicted from the properties conferred by the genes introduced into the GMOs. However, the possibility that novel, unexpected phenotypic effects may appear must not be neglected in risk assessment procedures.

Some of the most risky consequences which may face us

Creating new, and more vigorous pests and pathogens

Exacerbating the effects of existing pests through hybridisation with related transgenic organisms

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Harm to non-target species

Disruption of biotic communities, including agro- ecosystems

Irreparable loss or changes in species diversity or genetic diversity

(ESA Report, Snow et al., 2005, Ecol. Appl., 15, 377-404.)

Soil Sterility and Pollution:

Scientists found GM bacterium (klebsiella planticola) meant to break down wood chips, corn stalks and lumber wastes to produce ethanol with the post process waste to be used as compost rendered the soil sterile. It killed essential soil nutrients, robbing the soil of nitrogen and killed nitrogen capturing fungi. A similar result was found in 1997 with the GM bacteria Rhizobium melitoli. The pollution was found to last up to 8 months with depressed microbial activity. An Oregon study showed that GM soil microbes in the lab killed wheat plants when added to the soil.

Super weeds:

It has been shown that genetically modified Bt endotoxin remains in the soil at least 18 months and can be transported to wild plants creating super weeds (resistant to butterfly, moth, and beetle pests) potentially disturbing the balance of nature. A study in Denmark and in the UK (National Institute of Agricultural Botany) showed super weeds growing nearby in just one generation. A US study showed the super weed resistant to glufosinate (which differs from glyphosate) to be just as fertile as non-polluted weeds. Another study showed 20 times more genetic leakage with GM plants or a dramatic increase in the flow of genes to outside species.

Herbicide tolerant plants:

With the use of herbicide tolerant plants, reductions in overall levels of herbicide application have been envisaged, but the evolution of herbicide tolerant weeds, particularly through introgressive hybridization, may reduce or annihilate this potential advantage. Indirect effects of changes in herbicide application, especially on the soil fauna and micro flora, are in need of investigation (Daele et al. 1996; Meyer and Wolters 1998).

Pest resistance crops

The development of pest resistant crops, by introduction of bacterial toxins into plants, may reduce the application of pesticides. However, since these genes confer a potential fitness advantage also outside the agro ecosystems, increased invasiveness into non-target ecosystems may result, especially in crops that have a known tendency towards weediness, or that can hybridize with weeds. Moreover, evolution of resistance against these toxins in phytophagous insects may jeopardize other applications of these toxins, as ‘soft’ insecticides which are used in organic farming (Braun 1996;Schulte and Käppeli 1996). The toxins also may have undesirable effects on other insects, including predators of the phytophagous pest species (Hafez et al. 1997;

Hilbeck et al. 1998).

Destruction of Forest Life:

GM trees or "super trees" are being developed which can be sprayed from the air to kill exactly all of surrounding life, except the GM trees. The trees themselves are often sterile and flowerless. This is in contrast to rainforests teaming with life, or where a single tree can host thousands of unique species of insects, fungi, mammals and birds in an interconnected ecosphere. This kind of development has been called "death engineering" rather than "life" or "bio engineering." More threateningly pollen from such trees, because of their height, has traveled as much as 400 miles or 600 kilometers.

Terminator Trees:

Monsanto has developed plans with the New Zealand Forest Research Agency to create more lethal tree plantations. This super deadly tree are non flowering, herbicide resistant, and with leaves exuding toxic chemicals to kill caterpillars and other surrounding insects, destroying the wholesale ecology of forest life.

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Super pests:

Lab tests indicate that common plant pests such as cotton bollworms will evolve into super pests immune from the Bt. sprays used by organic farmers. The recent "stink bug" epidemic in North Carolina and Georgia seems linked to bioengineered plants that the bugs love. Pests the transgenic cotton was meant to kill cotton bollworms, pink bollworms, and budworms, were once "secondary pests." Toxic chemicals killed off their predators, unbalanced nature, and thus made them "major pests."

Animal Bio invasions:

Fish and marine life are threatened by accidental release of GM fish currently under development in several countries (trout, carp, and salmon several times the normal size and growing up to 6x times as fast). One such accident has already occurred in the Philippines threatening local fish supplies.

Killing Beneficial Insects:

Studies have shown that GM products can kill useful insects, most notably the monarch butterfly larvae. Swiss government researchers found Bt. crops killed lacewings that ate the cotton worms which the Bt. targeted. A study reported in 1997 by New Scientist indicates honeybees may be harmed by feeding on proteins found in GM canola flowers. Other studies relate to the death of bees.

Poisonous to Mammals:

In a study with GM potatoes, spliced with DNA from the snowdrop plant and a viral promoter (CaMV), the resulting plant was poisonous to mammals (rats), damaging vital organs, the stomach lining and immune system. CaMV is a pararetrovirus. It can reactivate dormant viruses or create new viruses, as some assume have occurred with the AIDES epidemic.

Animal Abuse:

Pig number 6706 was supposed to be a "super pig." It was implanted with a gene to become a technological speculate. But it eventually became a "super cripple" full of arthritis, cross eyed, and could barely stand up with its mutated body. Two US biotech companies are producing genetically modified birds as carriers for human drug delivery without little concern for animal suffering.