Re: NANFA-- Genetically Modified Corn and its effect on the

John Bongiovanni (
Fri, 06 Sep 2002 22:40:37 -0500


I may remember incorrectly but I think the Mexican occurance of transfer
was debunked. Be that as it may
You have a lot of good points. The issues that concern me the most is
that the seed companies are able to breed into teh plants the
"inability" to produce viable seed thus forcing tohe farmers to purchase
more seed from them. Teh second issue is that at some point all the
insects etc will develop resistance to BT and the other substances and
that brings us right back to where we started from. 3rd (and my
favorite!) While we are able to debate the organic vs GM vs selective
breeding etc. the third world is starving. They will gladly eat BT
corn, BT wheat, BT whatever if the options are cancer at 60 years of age
vs starvation at 20. If science can improve on items 1, or 2, #3 will
take care of itself! That's it!

Back to downloading .. tonight, " Por Mi Camino" by the Iguanas!

Sajjad Lateef wrote:

>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 ( )
> in India and CIMMYT ( 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"
> 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
> ( )
> 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
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