The Effects of Genetic Engineering on Agriculture
Agribiotechnology is the study of making altered agricultural products. Agribusiness is trying to alter the genes of already existing products to try to enhance the biocompetitiveness and adaptability of crops by enhancing plant resistance to drought, salinity, disease, pests and herbicides. They are going to try to enhance their growth, productivity, nutrient value, and chemical composition. The old way of doing this was through selective breeding, special fertilizer, and hormones. This seems now somewhat outdated with today’s technology.
Genetic engineering comes with many downfalls. Increased production through genetic engineering could exhaust nonrenewable resources more rapidly and fail to feed a larger and more dependent human population. In Africa, and South and Central America, super breeds of crops, irrigation and hydroelectric dams, chemical fertilizers, pesticides, and agripoisons exported to less developed countries produced great short-term profits but destroyed already existing, more regenerative, traditional farming practices, ultimately destroying the communities and fragile land. Natural deserts, swamps and salt marshes need to be preserved to protect biodiversity and the integrity of the Earth’s ecology. Introducing genetically engineered organisms into the environment means that these areas could be invaded by these new species therefore furthering loss of natural ecosystems.
A major concern of farmers and scientists regarding engineered crops is that they are afraid that these new plants which would be resistant to herbicides and other chemicals would breed with a nearby weedy relative and thus creating a superweed that would be resistant to herbicides. These plants would then choke out the crops. Another example of this would be with Pseudomonas syringae. This is a common bacterium on plants that causes frost to form on them. The lipoprotein coating of this bacterium is blown from the plants and soil into the atmosphere. Once in the upper atmospheric regions, these particles act as nuclei around which water collects and freezes to form ice. Some scientists consider this process absolutely essential for rain to fall. Genetic engineers are working on a strain of P. syringae that would not form frost on plants. Some scientists are concerned that these strains could conceivably cause serious climatic perturbations that inhibit rainfall and cause drought.
Farmer’s fields are not the only places that are threatened. Scientists are looking for a way to destroy lignin, an organic substance that makes trees rigid, by use of a genetically engineered enzyme. They believe that it would be of use to clean up the effluent form paper mills or for decomposing biological material for energy. This poses a threat to forests because it could destroy massive amounts of them by eating away their lignin. We could end up with no trees. Engineers could try to create organisms with a...