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Checkbiotech: Designing genes
Posted by: DR. RAUPP & madora (IP Logged)
Date: October 30, 2004 12:32PM ;

In a recent report entitled ?Designing Genes: Aiming for Safety and
Sustainability in U.S. Agriculture and Biotechnology,? the World Resource
Institute in Washington DC evaluated the economical and environmental values
of transgenic in agriculture. The following is a summary of the report
followed by a link to the full report, October 2004 .

The health and productivity of agriculture is vital to U.S. national
interests. Current agricultural practices, however, carry serious
environmental and economic costs, making a shift toward sustainable
alternatives imperative for U.S. agriculture.

Modern agricultural production is based on heavy use of irrigation, energy,
and chemical inputs (pesticides, herbicides, and fertilizers) that degrade
the environment and impose considerable economic burdens on current and
future generations. Most commodity farming in the United States relies on
high levels of synthetic chemical inputs and only modest use of crop
rotations and conservation tillage. Agricultural practices increase
greenhouse gas concentrations by adding carbon dioxide, methane, and
nitrogen oxides to the atmosphere, contributing to the threat of global
climate change.

National policies to reduce food prices and expand agricultural exports
through subsidies and high production levels have also taken their toll on
farm profitability over the last half century, with most U.S. agricultural
production now carried out at or near economic loss.

In this context of unsustainable agriculture, genetically engineered (GE)
crops have become a major feature of current U.S. agricultural practice
whose value and desirability is hotly debated. U.S. farmers strongly prefer
the GE varieties of many principal commodity crops, including corn (45
percent of the annual crop), cotton (76 percent of the annual upland cotton
crop), and soy (85 percent of the annual crop).

Crops genetically engineered for herbicide tolerance and insect resistance
are now planted on over 110 million acres of soybeans, corn, and cotton in
the United States. Scientific assessments show that GE approaches to crop
improvement generate potential benefits in many arenas of agricultural
performance, including reduced volume and toxicity of agricultural chemical
use, increased prevalence of conservation tillage and no-till practices, and
simplified farm management.

However, many areas of scientific uncertainty and public unease remain
regarding today?s GE crop varieties and those of tomorrow. Public opposition
to current GE crops has developed because of concerns about environmental
and health hazards as well as objections to the agricultural, economic, and
political system in which GE crops have been developed, marketed, and

The extraordinary pace of technical innovation and farmer adoption of GE
crops has put policy-makers in a reactive mode?often one step behind new
technologies and emerging environmental and social concerns. Prominently
absent from the debate about GE crops is a long-term research and
development (R&D) agenda that connects the present challenges and future
goals of agriculture to those of genetic engineering.


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