I remember learning in school a LONG time ago that scientists could not find
the "wild" form of corn, was this information incorrect or by wild do you
just mean old heirloom varieties?
----- Original Message -----
From: Sajjad Lateef <sajjadlateef_at_yahoo.com>
Sent: Friday, September 06, 2002 4:00 PM
Subject: NANFA-- Genetically Modified Corn and its effect on the
> A bit off-topic (but does mention water resources).
> I wrote up a short essay on Genetically Modified Corn and its
> effects on the environment for a discussion with some
> colleagues. I thought I would share it (slightly modified)
> with the NANFA list.
> Please delete if the subject does not interest you.
> Comments are welcome.
> Genetically Modified Corn and its effect on the environment.
> 1. Genetic Modification in plants.
> GM is the modification of genes in plants to bring about
> changes. This can be done by either identifying genes from
> same species or by identifying genes from other organisms
> (like Bacteria) and introducing these genes into the
> plants. In the first instance, it is done by selective
> breeding. In the second instance, it is done by molecular
> biology techniques. These types of plants are called
> transgenic plants.
> Several scientists work extensivly on Host Plant Resistance
> where they identify wild relatives of food crops which are
> naturally resistant to insects and selectively bred this
> resistance into commerical varieties. This is an example
> of the first instance. In this case, the resistance is
> something that the plants developed themselves in nature over
> thousands of years. Scientists identify the resistant plants,
> selectively inter-breed them with common varieties, test and
> retest and finally release these now naturally-resistant
> varieties to farmers. This is the kind of work being done
> by institutes like ICRISAT ( http://www.icrisat.org )
> in India and CIMMYT (http://www.cimmyt.org) in Mexico etc.
> BT-maize is an example of the second instance where a gene
> is extracted from a Bacteria (Bacillus thuringiensis aka BT)
> which produces the toxin Bt Delta Endotoxin (which is deadly
> to larvae of stem borers). This gene was extracted from
> the bacteria and introduced into maize varieties which are
> then grown and marketed as BT-corn. Now, the plant itself
> produces the Endotoxin and kills any larvae that attack it.
> see: "Bt-Corn: What it is and How it works"
> 2. Impact of GM-corn
> The major scientific concern of GM-Corn or BT-corn (i.e. the
> non-political, non-social, non-economic concern) is that a
> non-natural gene has been introduced into a widely utilized
> food crop. Since Maize/Corn readily inter-breeds with other
> corn varieties, the BT-Corn gene can be readily introduced
> into a native population by cross-pollination. This threatens
> the natural diversity of the wild crops. Due to both natural
> and human factors, the transgenic plants will spread their
> genes to wild plants and will slowly reduce the diversity
> of the wild population.
> While scientists are just not sure yet of the long term
> impacts of the introduction of BT-corn genes into wild
> population, they DO KNOW that a reduction in the diversity of
> the wild poplulation will have potentially disastrous effects
> Inbreeding eventually causes problems which are usually
> offset by introducing other genes from the wild population.
> But, if there is no wild population left without BT-corn
> genes, then there is no wild genes left to save the crop
> from the effects of inbreeding or a new disease. Eventually,
> the entire crop in-breeds itself to extinction. Since so much
> of the world depends on corn for food, no more corn means big
> trouble for the world.
> See: "Mexican study raises GM concern"
> " TRANSGENIC MAIZE IN MEXICO:FACTS AND FUTURE RESEARCH NEEDS"
> btw, CIMMYT is the leading research institute in the world
> on Maize/Corn and is a research center of CGIAR (Consultive
> Group on Intl Agricultural Research) - supported by UN's FAO.
> There are also concerns that the BT-corn may even release
> the Endotoxin into the soil where it remains without breaking
> down. This has the possibility of contaminating groundwater
> and surface water (possiblity affecting aquatic life and
> the food chain that depends on water-bodies).
> 3. Effects of gene flow from transgenic crops to wild relatives.
> Gene flow from transgenic crops to wild relatives is enough
> of a concern that the USDA sponsors research on this topic.
> Scientists do not really know the effects of gene flow but
> what little they do know worries them.
> USDA's Biotechnology Risk Assessment Research Grants Program
> ( http://www.reeusda.gov/crgam/biotechrisk/biotech.htm )
> sponsored a workshop on "Ecological and Agronomic Consequences
> of Gene Flow from Transgenic Crops to Wild Relatives"
> 4. Why would you worry about such a thing like gene flow?
> Well, just for grins, take a look at this:
> "Scientists Create GM Corn Which Prevents Human Conception"
> "GM corn set to stop man spreading his seed "
> This is an extreme case. But, just imagine the consequences
> of eating some *special* 'corn on the cob' at a summer picnic.
> I am sure that there is no sane person on this world who would
> contemplate releasing such corn to other people. But, there are
> enough nutty people around that I am concerned.
> As a environment conservationist, and a concerned citizen of
> this Earth, the long-term consequences of transgenic mutation
> by Genetically Modified plants on food crops scares me. A LOT!
> Sajjad Lateef
> Sajjad Lateef
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