The invasion of the mutant crops!
Is it possible to grow Genetically modified crops (GMOs) in a way that prevents gene transfer from GMOs to conventional crops? In 1994, the first FDA approved GM (genetically modified) food hit grocery stores in the United States; the Flavr Savr tomato had modified genes that would allow it to stay fresh on the shelves longer (Woolsey). That was the beginning of what has become a prominent farming method in the United States. GMO crops can be designed to resist herbicides like Round Up, so that produce crops can be indiscriminately sprayed and only the weeds are destroyed. Some crops, like GMO cotton, are designed to be toxic to common insect pests. Sometimes the modifications just remove unfavorable traits, or increase harvest yields in undesirable growing locations, allowing us to fill supermarket shelves with produce year-round.
There is now a growing concern that GMO crops are causing irreversible changes to our conventional (non-GMO) crops and some wild relatives. The concern is that GMO plants are transferring their genetics, and sometimes, full GMO traits, to conventional crops. Many now fear that under-regulated GMO crops could unintentionally alter a major food source in such a way as to make it incompatible with human consumption. Pharming is the process of inserting genes that code for pharmaceutical drugs into common crops, like carrots (kraemer). If those genes were to get outside of the laboratory setting, and into our conventional carrot crops, carrots could become toxic and inedible.
The first vector in which GMO crops can transfer their genes to conventional crops is through cross-pollination, where GMO plant pollen is transferred, via wind or bee pollination, to conventional crops. The resulting seeds have combined DNA from both parent plants. With the help of the University of British Columbia, Katrina M. Dlugosch and Jeannette Whitton compiled data from several sources on the gene flow of rapeseed (canola). They were looking at a GMO variety of rapeseed (Brassica napus) that was cross pollenating with a wild variety (Brassica rapa). “At one site, some plants produced in excess of 50% hybrid progeny. In their latest study (Warwick et al. 2008), they demonstrate that hybrid lineages generated in 2000/2001 persisted for the 3–5 years of study (the complete study) at each site (Dlugosch).” Later, they specifically looked at one GMO/Conventional hybrid plant that had been found to carry the parent rapeseed plants GMO herbicide resistance, and studied its offspring. “Although it suffered from reduced pollen fertility, this individual was still able to produce hundreds of offspring, most of which showed high pollen fertility and half of which showed herbicide resistance. Importantly, this transgene persisted in the weedy B. rapa populations despite a lack of selection by the appropriate herbicide after 2002 (Dlugosch).” This information is particularly important because it illustrates how easily...