I'm trying to write an article for our bimonthly newsletter. The article
GMOs for Joe Consumer who doesn't know what he's getting in his food or what
the potential environmental impacts might be. I've done a lot of reading and
talking to people here at Va. Tech, but I'm left with some questions that
haven't been resolved. I really need
scientifically based answers, not "gut reactions," and citations, please.
1. Some GMO's could have been produced by conventional breeding practices,
but genetic engineering has speeded up the process. Is this a true
statement? Can you give me examples? If it is true, do these
plants/animals have the same problems associated with them as GMO's that
have bacteria, viruses, or genes from other species inserted into them?
The general methods of genetic modification in farm crops other than "cut and
splice" I am aware of include using radiation, colchicine and other
chemicals. For instance, "Regal" Ladino clover is a selected combination of
6 strains that were modified through radiation by Auburn University and
released in early 1960s. The rootstocks for virtually all plums trees
produced in California are genetic modifications resistant to a specific
disease problem. Many of the large colored peppers were developed using
colchicine to double the chromosomes. Each of these genetic modifications
however, does not included cross species transfer of genes. To my knowledge
outside the mule, for which we get a superior, but sterile animal and perhaps
a few other aberrations in nature there such cross species movements do not
take place. Conclusion: all genetic modifications can not be defined as the
same, dictating we categorize "cut and splice" methods in a different light.
In food additives, processing aids and actual ingredients in processed foods
there is a wealth of investigation needed. Perhaps Steve Taylor at
University of Nebraska could offer directions to understanding what
genetically modified substances or derivatives of genetically modification
are presently being used in the food processing industry. For instance, how
much vitamin C is derived from genetically modified bacteria.
2. The literature says GMO's will reduce pesticide usage. However, if a
farmer can spray roundup over an emerged crop and the crop isn't effected,
won't he be likely to use more pesticide rather than less? I do understand
that Bt crops can result in lower pesticide usage.
The question is answered by locating farmers using such products and getting
honest answers on use. In visiting such farmers near me, I found they
actually use more pesticide and expect more from the pesticide. Just being
lazy going organic can result in lower pesticide use.
Thanks for your help.
Rural Economic Analysis Program
Department of Agricultural and Applied Economics (0401)
Blacksburg, VA 24061
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