Mutated Arguments: Many of the Potential Problems Associated with GM Organisms Aren't New and Are Equally Likely to Arise in Crops Bred Using Conventional Methods

Geographical, June 2004 | Go to article overview

Mutated Arguments: Many of the Potential Problems Associated with GM Organisms Aren't New and Are Equally Likely to Arise in Crops Bred Using Conventional Methods


It seemed an ingenious solution to an age-old problem: genetically modify a staple food of developing nations and protect millions from malnutrition. But the story of GM soya has acquired almost mythical status as an example of what happens when scientists tinker with nature.

The idea of creating new crops with improved nutritional value attracted the interest of scientists soon after the first GM crop--a variety of tobacco--was created in 1983. One idea was to insert into the DNA of soya, a staple crop of developing nations, the gene for a brazil nut protein that's rich in amino acids. Alarm bells immediately rang among scientists over the risk from lethal allergic reactions linked to nut proteins, and the idea was dropped. Ten years later, the US biotechnology company Pioneer Hi-Bred resurrected the soya-nut hybrid idea, but tests confirmed the allergy risk among humans. Despite the product being designed as a potential source of poultry feed, Pioneer abandoned the project.

For opponents of GM technology, the allergenic soya bean story highlights the risks that GM hybrids pose to human health. Yet others point out that allergies are a potential risk with any crop--including those bred by conventional methods. The big difference with GM, they argue, is that by altering just a few genes, the risk is easier to assess, while the tighter regulatory control is more likely to spot unexpected side-effects. "There's much concern about allergenicity with kiwi fruit and sesame, both of which were conventionally bred," says Professor Peter Shewry of Rothamsted Research, the leading independent UK crop-research institute. "If anything, the brazil nut story shows how good the regulatory control of GM is."

In fact, the lack of such control over conventionally bred crops has led to just the sort of horror stories usually linked to GM crops. In the early 1970s, a new variety of potato called Lenape was already on the market when tests revealed it contained dangerous levels of toxins called glycoalkaloids. In the 1990s, a naturally bred variety of celery was found to contain very high levels of cancer-causing psoralens and triggered severe dermatitis in some farmers.

There is, however, one potential health risk that is specific to GM crops, and it centres on the 'marker genes' used by researchers to identify which plant cells have been successfully modified. Such genes remain in the plant and are often modified antibiotic-resistance genes. These raise the spectre of the same resistance spreading from plants to bacteria, making infections more difficult to treat. While experts on both sides of the GM debate accept that there is a potential health risk, they also agree there is no evidence of it manifesting itself. The debate now looks set to become irrelevant in any case, as GM companies bring in new markers.

For many, the biggest concern about GM crops centres on the risk of genes escaping from fields, adulterating organic crops or creating 'superweeds' that possess the same resistance to herbicides as the GM crops.

Such concerns have been heightened by studies demonstrating that GM pollen can travel many kilometres from fields, and by an incident in Alberta, Canada, in 2000. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Mutated Arguments: Many of the Potential Problems Associated with GM Organisms Aren't New and Are Equally Likely to Arise in Crops Bred Using Conventional Methods
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.