Genetically Engineered Crops – What, How and Why

Here’s an article by Pamela Ronald in Scientific American, telling us why she believes that genetically modified (GM, also called genetically engineered, GE) crops are what the world needs to feed our growing population.

Dr Ronald explains how ‘most Bt crops remained effective against most pests for more than a decade’. Bt crops are the GM crops which make Bacillus thuringiensis toxin to kill insect pests. But as I told you a few minutes ago, some pests have been reported to evolve Bt resistance after a decade or so.

As you know, I keep an open mind about GM. But what I’m seeing about Bt crops leads me to think that they’re a temporary fix. A decade without some of the pests doesn’t sound to me like sustainability.

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About argylesock

I wrote a PhD about veterinary parasitology so that's the starting point for this blog. But I'm now branching out into other areas of biology and into popular science writing. I'll write here about science that happens in landscapes, particularly farmland, and about science involving interspecific interactions. Datasets and statistics get my attention. Exactly where this blog will lead? That's a journey that I'm on and I hope you'll come with me.
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4 Responses to Genetically Engineered Crops – What, How and Why

  1. Tony says:

    Interesting that you see this as being just a temporary fix. I actually wonder whether we will ever get a long-term fix. For me, as each day passes, mankind simply seeks to continue on its reckless path. Living, perhaps falsely, looking at modern-technologies which will solve all these global problems. The biggest self-effacing issue for the world is surely overpopulation? So ignorant of this are we, that even the bees don’t get a look-in. Money makes the world go round, I guess but I’m having happy with my lot, which to some, most probably isn’t enough.

    Sorry for the rant and for possibly going off at a tangent, however I’m a deep-thinking kind of guy.

    • argylesock says:

      I wouldn’t call your words here a ‘rant’! It’s great that you express your opinions here, and I respond when RL factors allow me to do that.

      Dr Ronald’s article here got me thinking about an ‘arms race’ between the inventors of GM crops and the living, evolving pests. She rightly points out that this is a familiar paradigm in biology. I’m seeing parallels with other ‘arms race’ scenarios: antibiotics vs bacterial evolution, antihelmintics vs worm evolution, antimalarials vs apicomplexan evolution, host evolution vs pathogen evolution. In fact, the drama of an ‘arms race’ is the reason I chose a PhD topic about a parasite.

      I’m not yet convinced either that we humans should engage in the GM vs pests ‘arms race’ or that we shouldn’t. Perhaps there’s no simple answer to that question. I do know that Integrated Pest Management has been around for a while, offering paths to sustainability. Must blog about that…

      You mention human population growth. I blog about that (see the ‘humans’ tab on my blog’s title strip) and I recommend several of the sources I use here. Global Food Security (link on my blog’s sidebar) describes good thinking, and so does my fellow blogger Janina at Food (Policy) for Thought http://foodpolicyforthought.wordpress.com/about/

      • Tony says:

        Good stuff. Thanks. Much of what you mention above is currently beyond my mental capacity, but then again I can always learn. What especially strikes a chord with me, is when you hear of global population concerns from the likes of David Attenborough. He has stated that we potentially need one and half earths to effectively sustain our current situation. If you haven’t yet seen it, the following youtube clip – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dN06tLRE4WE is worth watching. The morals of entertaining what you even do about that is again, an equally revealing question too.

  2. argylesock says:

    What an excellent film! Thanks for pointing it out, Tony.

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