Article review from Scientific American. Author discusses genetic crop modification and addressses long term impact on the environment

Essay by suka311High School, 11th gradeA+, December 2003

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Kathy, Brown. 2001. "Seed of Concern",

Scientific American, 284:52-57.

In this article the author addresses the growing concern over the risks of genetically

modified crops and the possible environmental effects that these plants may have in the future.

Presently most genetically modified crops fall into two main categories; those which are

resistant to insect pests because they produce their own toxins, and those which can tolerate a

wide range of weed-killing herbicides in place of harsh pesticides designed to target specific

species. Benefits of genetic modification vary from crop to crop, but generally, GM plants

respond to milder forms of pesticides and often do not need to be sprayed as often as ordinary

plants. As a result, the amount of pesticide residue that runs off into nearby groundwater and

streams may be decreased, or at least less potent.

The author touches on the three principle concerns of genetically modified crops which

are ; the long-term effects of GM plants on non-target organisms, the possible spread of

modifies genes into nearby plants and weeds, and the evolutionary response these plants may

trigger in weeds and insects.

The author stresses that both the risks and benefits of genetic

engineering in agriculture remain vague due to lack of long-term data on GM plants and their

effects on insect-populations, weeds, and other species. Until they gain more insight, scientists

are proceeding with caution and urge farmers to use pesticides responsibly and to intermix

genetically modified plants with unaltered ones.

Reading this article, I got the impression that our knowledge of genetic engineering is

still very limited. Given that the benefits of GM crops are mixed and that the drawbacks and

possible long-term environmental effects remain unknown, I find it hard to understand why they

are being introduced at all. The biological relationships within ecosystems...