The Ecological Risks of Engineered Crops|
by Jane Rissler (Author), Margaret Mellon (Author)
From Library Journal
This book is an enlargement of the authors' earlier work, Perils Amidst the
Promise: The Ecological Risks of Transgenic Plants in a Global Market (Union of
Concerned Scientists, 1993). Rissler and Mellon, who hold staff positions in the
UCS, acknowledge that applications of biotechnology in crops are already a
commercial reality, and they do not oppose genetic engineering as a component of
agriculture as a whole. Instead, they discuss a list of hypothetical harmful
consequences of transgenic plants and suggest risk assessment methodology for
two of these situations. Although part of the book's purpose is to generate
public debate on the issues, the authors unfortunately do not present details of
opposing viewpoints. For environment and agriculture collections.
What will it mean to have a steady stream of animal and microbial genes entering
the gene pools of plants in wild ecosystems?
Private companies and the federal government are pouring significant resources
into biotechnology, and the major application of genetic engineering to
agriculture is transgenic crops. This carefully reasoned science and policy
assessment shows that the commercialization and release of transgenic crops on
millions of acres of farmland can pose serious -- and costly -- environmental
risks. The authors propose a practical, feasible method of conducting
precommercialization evaluations that will balance the needs of ecological
safety with those of agriculture and business, and that will assist governments
seeking to identify and protect against two of the most significant risks.
Rissler and Mellon first define transgenic plants and review research currently
under way in the field of crop biotechnology. They then identify and categorize
the environmental risks presented by commercial uses of transgenic crops. These
include the potential of transgenic crops to become weeds or to produce weeds
with transgene properties such as herbicide resistance that may require costly
control programs. Plants engineered to contain virus particles may facilitate
the creation of new viruses that can affect economically important crops.
Looking at global seed trade, the authors discuss the relationship between
commercial approval in the United States and environmental risks abroad. Of
particular concern is the flow of novel genes into the centers of crop
biodiversity, primarily in the developing world, that could threaten the genetic
base of the world's future food supply.
The authors conclude by reviewing the current status of U.S. regulations
governing transgenic crops. They discuss the difficulties that this new terrain
presents to regulators, and offer recommendations concerning the commercial
development, risk assessment, and regulation of these crops.
Copublished with the Union of Concerned Scientists
Paperback: 192 pages
Publisher: The MIT Press (April 5, 1996)