Effects of Genetically-Modified Crops on Ecosystem

A number of biotech companies try to make the public focus on the great benefits that GM crops can provide in terms of better yields and more disease and pest resistant crop varieties. Most of the companies are trying their best to keep people see the good about such crops and what they mean for the future. A bright picture they seem to paint for the people to see. But at the end of the day, there are some things that are kept in the dark that may need to come out.

Truly, GM crops may provide an answer to such problems like world hunger and increasing harvests for farmers to earn a bit more than usual. But the rate that some biotech companies are trying to introduce new GM crops in the market can sometimes be a bit disturbing. It seems that these new GM plant varieties may not benefit from extensive testing to ensure if they are really safe not only for humans but for the environment as well.

A prime example of this may come from a recent article on the Science Daily website that tackled on the possible harmful implications that a widely planted GM corn variety may have on aquatic ecosystems.  In a study done by researchers which included Todd V. Royer, an assistant professor at the Indiana University School of Public and Environmental Affairs, they have found that pollen and other plant parts coming from genetically engineered Bt corn are finding their way into streams near cornfields and into aquatic ecosystems.

The researchers conducted a number of laboratory trials and found out that consumption of byproducts from Bt corn that find their way into aquatic ecosystems has resulted in increased mortality and reduced growth rate in caddisflies. These insects are closely related to the pests that are targeted by the toxins genetically engineered into Bt corn.

Caddisflies are known to be a food source for a number of higher organisms in the aquatic ecosystem such as fish and a number of amphibians. Researchers are concerned that the decreasing population of caddisflies may leave a serious impact on the aquatic ecosystems that have such insects as essential food resource.

Bt corn has been genetically engineered with a gene from a bacterium that produces a toxin to protect the crop from certain pests. It was licensed way back in 1996 and has become a popular crop among corn farmers. Before its licensing, the Bt corn was tested on how it would impact water ecosystems. But the US Environmental  Protection Agency, the office that did the testing, made use of Daphnia, a type of crustacean used commonly for such toxicity tests. But insects that are more closely related to the target pests were not used when the said toxicity tests were conducted.

This might go to show that some GM crops that have been made available may not have been fully assessed as to how they would impact the environment as well as the different ecosystems. That is something that should be given more concern as researchers have a better grasp of how these GM crops may have an effect on the environment and, eventually, on the lives of humans in general. It may be easy to introduce such crops, but the possible implications that may happen may not be as easy to reverse.

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