Scientists and environmental activits have been studying and debating the current and future effects of GM     crops on the environment. This is another case in which one must ask "Do the potential benefits outweigh  the potential risks?"

Some might say that...

GM foods can help ensure environmental sustainability. With crops like BT corn and cotton, and GM soybeans, we can drastically reduce pesticide use

Take cotton, the number one user of pesticides. Unmodified cotton has to be sprayed with pesticides 20 times per year, but transgenic cotton fields can be sprayed less than five times per year. While beneficial to farming in developed countries, this could revolutionize agriculture in countries like China. Since Chinese farmers began planting BT cotton, pesticide use has gone down by 70% in a country where pesticide pollution used to be norm. Among the numerous benefits is a huge decrease in runoff from agricultural fields, which can help China solve its drinking water crisis. These benefits also translate over to aquaculture. Only 22% of the world’s fisheries are sustainable, and more and more fish stocks are overexploited . GM salmon can help save the most important source of protein for billion of people on this planet. Since transgenic salmon reach their full size four times faster than unmodified salmon, aquaculture production could quadruple in a sustainable fashion. Without the GM salmon, it will be impossible to meet the growing demand for fish.            

Unlike traditional methods of spraying pesticides, GM crops constantly put out toxins. When a farmer sprays a field with pesticides, a small percentage of resistant pest survive, but they are quickly outnumbered by nonresistant pests as they repopulate the field. In fields with transgenic crops, resistant pests would reproduce and eventually populate the entire field, creating an unsolvable resistance problem.

Biotechnology companies have already isolated different bacterial genes to genetically engineer crops with should this occur.

All this does is put makeup on the problem and create a cycle of dependence in which farmers will be forced to return to biotech companies to but increasingly expensive products.


The EPA has also found a solution to this problem: the creation of ‘refuges’ in corn fields. For every acre of BT corn planted, farmers must allot a smaller portion of land surrounding the transgenic crop in which they will grow regular corn. This way, there will be a constant migration of resistant and nonresistant pest in and out of the BT corn field, keeping the resistant population in check.

This is unenforceable, as few farmers will be willing to set aside land to be devoured by pests.

GM salmon is an ecological disaster waiting to happen. If transgenic salmon escaped from fish pens in the open ocean, they would get five times the mating that an unmodified salmon would get. Females mate with larger fish because in theory, they have good genes,’ and are able to avoid predators and secure resources. But since the GM salmon have been engineered to be larger, and have not actually grown by escaping predators and finding food, they would not necessarily make better fathers. In a computer simulation designed by researchers at the University of Indiana, this mating trend led to extinction after 20 or 30 generations. If transgenic salmon were to escape into the open ocean, they could wipe out local fish populations.

The aquaculture industry has already taken protective measures against the potential threat these GM salmon would pose. Ideally, all their fish would be female and sterile. While they cannot guarantee that are the transgenic salmon will be sterile, they can say with 100% certainty that they will all be female.


GM foods will also make organic farming impossible. The cross pollination will contaminate organic food supplies, putting these farmers out of business.

While organic farming can grow in some places like California, it cannot provide food for the growing population of the world.


Transgenic crops would harm other organisms living in close proximity. One example of this is the harmful effects of BT pollen on milkweed caterpillars. Milkweed only grows near corn, and tests have been performed to show that BT pollen is harmful to these caterpillars. One study showed that 44% of caterpillars eating milkweed dusted with BT pollen died, while none that ate milkweed dusted with pollen from unmodified corn died. 


This study was not at all accurate. The milkweed leaves contained concentrations of BT pollen thousands of times larger than they would in reality. Since milkweed is listed as a noxious weed, little of it would be found inside a cornfield; most of it would lie just outside the confines of the field. BT pollen is extremely heavy, and would not drift very far outside the field. These caterpillars would be exposed to very little BT pollen in reality. Furthermore, the BT pollen cannot be more deleterious to caterpillars than the year-round spraying of pesticides.

Citation 11

Citation 12

Return to Issues page