What a “GMO” really means

This post originally appeared in Georgia FACES.

By Wayne Parrott, University of Georgia, College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences

A supermarket shopper 50 years ago would never believe the amount of fresh produce available today, especially in the winter. No generation before us has had a more plentiful, nutritious or safe assortment of fresh fruits and vegetables at their disposal.

New fruit and vegetable variety development is an ongoing process. Most of the fruits and vegetables found in supermarkets today simply do not exist in the wild. Over the past centuries, farmers derived fruits and vegetables from wild plants. In many cases, it is very difficult to recognize the wild versions. Continue reading

Study shows Bt trait in corn having reduced effectiveness

By Matt Shipman, NC State University

A new study from North Carolina State University and Clemson University finds that the toxin in a widely used genetically modified (GM) crop is having little impact on the crop pest called corn earworm (Helicoverpa zea) – which is consistent with predictions made almost 20 years ago that had been largely ignored. The study may be a signal to pay closer attention to warning signs about the development of resistance in agricultural pests to GM crops.

At issue is genetically engineered corn that produces a Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) protein which, in turn produces a toxin called Cry1Ab. This GM corn was originally designed to address a pest called the European corn borer (Ostrinia nubilalis) and went on the market in 1996.

Continue reading

How IPM can help with “superweeds”

Yesterday Paul Hollis from Southeast Farm Press wrote an eloquent and fact-filled blog about the myths behind “superweeds,” based on a new fact sheet published by the Weed Science Society of America. Mr. Hollis does an excellent job at explaining the points in the fact sheet, so you can read his article if you’d like to know how the “superweed” has become an average household word that, in fact, very few people understand.

Continue reading

Should Scientists Use Genetically Modified Insects to Fight Disease?

In the November 2011 issue of Scientific American, two scientists discuss the pros and cons of using genetically modified mosquitoes to reduce the risk of mosquito-borne illnesses. In the article, biologist Mark Q. Benedict and Helen Wallace, the director of GeneWatch UK,  illuminate the issues surrounding the release of genetically modified insects into the wild.

Genetically Modified Mosquitoes Could Be an Important Tool in the Fight against Disease
By Mark Q. Benedict

Current technologies we use against mosquitoes simply are not adequate: existing measures are losing the war. The choice of implementing GM mosquitoes is not a choice of no risk versus risk, it is a matter of choosing the least risky among all existing choices in a war against very real continuing disease risk. Read more.

The Danger of Genetically Modified Mosquitoes
By Helen Wallace

The release of genetically modified (GM) insects should follow a precautionary approach, because what appears well understood in the lab can have unintended consequences when released on a large scale into the environment. On release, GM mosquitoes become part of a complex system involving predators and prey, other mosquito species, four types of dengue virus, other tropical diseases transmitted by mosquitoes, and the humans—including children—who are being bitten and infected. Read more.