Voices 02/11/2009

The hidden cost of GM crops

How much could cost the run to GM crops?
Also forgetting all eventual environment risks, the problem of copyright on genome, the question of the accretion of power and influence of several companies and some other doubts, it remains the assurance that no GM can be the final solution for agriculture.

Every year born new GM crops , the research continues, and this is positive, but do genetically modified species increase or decrease tolerance to diseases?
The question is open.

In opinion of some biologists GM crops become more vulnerable to a fatal bacterial infection.

Stephenson, Penn State professor of biology, and his colleagues James A. Winsor, professor of biology; Matthew J. Ferrari, research associate; and Miruna A. Sasu, doctoral student and Daolin Du, visiting professor, Jiangsu University, China, crossed the genetically modified squash into wild squash native to the southwestern United States and examined the resulting flower and fruit production.
Unlike a lab experiment, the researchers tried to mimic a real world setting during their three-year study.
The researchers then looked at the effects of the virus-resistant transgenes on prevalence of the three viral diseases, herbivory by cucumber beetles, as well as the occurrence of bacterial wilt disease that is spread by the cucumber beetles.
The researchers discovered that as the viral infection swept the fields containing both genetically modified and wild crops, the damage from cucumber beetles is greater on the genetically modified plants. The modified plants are therefore more susceptible to the fatal bacterial wilt disease.
According to the researchers, their findings suggest that the fitness advantage enjoyed by virus-resistant plants comes at a price. Once the virus infects susceptible plants, cucumber beetles find the genetically modified plants a better source for food and mating.

The reply to this specific problem could be another gene inset in the genome of GM squash.
The real problem could be in long term, not years but decades of centuries, and was an ecological issue.
If GM delete or decrease the “wild” characters of crops, is there the risk of a too much brittle agriculture?

di Alberto Grimelli