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GENETIC ENGINEERING
OF CROP PLANTS
WHAT FARMERS NEED TO KNOW ABOUT
TRANSGENIC CROPS
AGRONOMY TECHNICAL NOTE
Abstract: This publication attempts to define for farmers and ranchers some of the key issues related to
transgenic crops. It explains what genetic engineering is, and examines the costs and benefits to farmers
of transgenic versus conventional crop varieties. However, this publication cannot provide definitive
answers or recommendations because independent scientific and socioeconomic analyses of transgenic
crops are limited, with many questions still unanswered. In addition, how well transgenic technology
works for farmers depends on the characteristics of each specific crop variety, the system in which it is
placed, the skill with which it is managed, and the markets for which it is destined.
By Nancy Matheson
NCAT Agriculture Specialist
October 2001
Table of Contents
What Are Transgenic Crops? ................................................................................................................................. 2
How Is Gene Transfer Accomplished? ................................................................................................................. 2
Commercial Transgenic Crops and Their Traits ................................................................................................. 4
Unresolved Issues of Concern ............................................................................................................................... 4
Ecological Issues ................................................................................................................................................ 5
Food Safety .......................................................................................................................................................... 6
Farm Management Issues ................................................................................................................................. 7
Crop Yield, Costs, and Profitability ................................................................................................................. 8
Marketing and Trade ......................................................................................................................................... 9
Liability .............................................................................................................................................................11
Influence on Public Research .........................................................................................................................12
Industry Concentration and Farmers Right to Save Seed ........................................................................ ..13
Regulation of Transgenic Crops ..................................................................................................................... 13
Implications for Sustainable Agriculture ........................................................................................................... 15
Framework for gauging a technology s impact on agricultural sustainability ........................................ 15
Conclusion .............................................................................................................................................................15
References ..............................................................................................................................................................16
Further Resources ..................................................................................................................................................19
Appendix 1: GMO Issues Facing Indiana Farmers in 2001 ........................................................................... 24
Appendix 2: Wheat Industry Is Cautious on Biotech Introduction ...............................................................28
Appendix 3: On the Implications of the Percy Schmeiser Decision ..............................................................30
Appendix 4: A History of Intellectual Property Rights (IPRs) ....................................................................... 34
ATTRA is the national sustainable agriculture information center operated by the National Center for
Appropriate Technology under a grant from the Rural Business-Cooperative Service, U.S. Department
of Agriculture. These organizations do not recommend or endorse products, companies, or individuals.
ATTRA is located in the Ozark Mountains at the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville (P.O. Box
3657, Fayetteville, AR 72702). ATTRA staff members prefer to receive requests for information
about sustainable agriculture via the toll-free number 800-346-9140.desired traits express themselves in the
What Are Transgenic Crops?
resulting crop plants, and why unintended
effects, such as the production of allergens,
The term biotechnology refers to a broad
may also be present or develop with
spectrum of technologiesincluding
subsequent generations of plants.
conventional plant selection and breedingin
which humans intervene in biological
Plants have elaborate defense mechanisms for
processes of genetic alteration and
dealing with foreign substances, including
improvement. The focus of this paper is on
foreign DNA. To overcome these defense
crop varieties created through a type of
mechanisms, genetic engineers include
biotechnology commonly known as
pathological organisms in the complex DNA
recombinant DNA, genetic engineering (GE),
packages they create to carry the chosen gene
transgenic modification, or genetic modification
into the host cell.
(GM). The products of genetic engineering are
often called genetically modified organisms, or
Generally, there are four parts to a DNA
GMOs. All these terms refer to methods of
package (3):
recombinant DNA technology by which
biologists splice genes from one or more
species into the DNA of crop plants to transfer 1. Genes for the desired traitthe payload.
chosen genetic traits.
An example of such a trait is crop resistance to
a given herbicide.
Genes are segments of DNA that contain
information that in part determines the
2. Genes for carrying the package into the host
structure and function of a living organism.
plant s DNA. This genetic carrier is called the
Genetic engineers are molecular biologists who
vector and is usually taken from a bacterium
manipulate this information, typically by
that causes tumors in plants, Agrobacterium
taking genes from one species an animal,
tumefaciens. Viruses are also sometimes used as
plant, bacterium, or virus and inserting them
gene carriers. These bacterial or viral vectors
into another species, such as an agricultural
infect the new host cells, delivering the
crop.
engineered gene into the DNA of the host
plant.
With the advent of genetic engineering of
plants around 1983, it appeared that this new
3. Genes for ensuring that the genetic package
biotechnology would benefit and even
will express the desired trait persistently
revolutionize agriculture. The transfer of
(rather than weakly or not at all). These genes
desirable genetic traits across species barriers
turn on the desired trait and are called
has shown promise for solving problems in the
promoters. They are usually derived from the
management of agricultural crops (1). Potential
cauliflower mosaic virus (CaMV).
benefits include reduced toxic pesticide use,
improved weed control resulting in less tillage
4. Genes for helping the biologist find the
and soil erosion, and water conservation.
DNA segment in which the insertion has been
However, emerging evidence suggests the
successful. These genes are called markers and
promised environmental benefits remain small,
are resistant to antibiotics (usually neomycin or
uncertain or unrealized in the U.S., and some
kanamycin). When the antibiotic is applied to
risks are real (2).
the new host s cells, the cells that survive are
the ones carrying the successfully inserted
How Is Gene Transfer
antibiotic-resistant geneindicating a
Accomplished?
likelihood that the gene carrying the desired
trait has been successfully inserted as well.
Knowing how gene transfer occurs in the
Marker genes are usually derived from bacteria
laboratory is key to understanding how the
(E. coli).
//GENETIC ENGINEERING OF CROP PLANTS
PAGE 2An alternative vector method uses a particle increase the number of bacteria that are
gun to shoot tiny metal particles with the DNA resistant to antibiotics. The viral promoter
package attached into the new host cell. This genes could combine with other infecting
eliminates the need for a bacterial vector, but viruses to create new viruses. The very
adds to the potential for genetic disruption in powerful promoter commonly used, the
the host cell (4). cauliflower mosaic virus, can cause the
inserted DNA package to be expressed out of
How does this process sometimes result in proportion with the rest of the genetic code.
With the particle gun method especially, this
unintended effects?
promoter can also jump out of the DNA
package and land somewhere else in the host
The current methods of gene transfer are not
genome, causing disruption. The bacterial and
precise. While scientists can control with
viral vector genes can recombine to form active
relative exactness the trait gene that is
pathogens once againeither new ones, or
inserted into a host plant genome, they cannot
old ones with renewed virulence, or with
yet control its location, nor the number of
broader host specificity (3).
copies that get inserted. Location of genetic
material is important because it controls the
Each piece of the gene package described
expression of biological traits just as genes
above carries with it the potential to disrupt
themselves do. Also, inserted DNA frequently
non-target portions of the host plant s DNA, to
contains multiple copies, which are often
create instability in the new genetic construct,
scrambled. Multiple copies can silence genes,
or to result in unpredictable combinations that
resulting in instability in the introduced genes.
can create new substances, viruses, or bacteria.
Because scientists can control neither the
What this adds up to is the possibility of
location nor copies of the genetic material they
unintended effects, particularly in subsequent
are inserting, they cannot entirely control the
generations of the engineered plant.
traits the host plant will express, nor can they
guarantee genetic stability in subsequent
Lessons from the human genome project
generations (5). This can lead to unpredictable
and undesirable effects, examples of which
include plant infertility, the production of Genetic engineering of crops is based upon the
notion that genes alone determine species
toxins, and reductions in yield and plant
traits. But this assumptionand the resulting
fitness.
idea of simply transferring a single gene
Another characteristic that can result in between organisms to achieve a single
unintended effects is called pleiotropy. resultcontradicts recent discoveries in genetic
science. Inheritance and expression of traits are
Pleiotropy means that one gene controls
controlled by complex processes involving
multiple traits in an organism. In other words,
complicated genetic material that includes
the gene for a desired trait may also control
other traits in the crop plant. Genetic engineers more than simple genes. For example, so-called
have relied on a simpler model of gene junk DNA is now thought to play a significant
role in determining an organism s traits.
expression, assuming one gene controls one
particular trait. But pleiotropy is common, and
Mapping of the human genome, completed in
the interactions of genes with each other and
their environment add further complexity. In early 2001, revealed that humans contain about
short, it is difficult or impossible to predict one-third the number of genes scientists
expected to find. In fact, the 30,000 human
what the effects of new genetic combinations
genes they identified comprise only 1 percent
will be.
of the total human DNA; they don t know
The current marker and promoter genes of what much of the other 99 percent is for. Only
choice also create new hazards. The antibiotic- 300 genes in the human genome are not also in
resistant marker genes carry the potential to the mouse. This tells me genes can t possibly
//GENETIC ENGINEERING OF CROP PLANTS PAGE 3explain all of what makes us what we are, 2001, more than 60 percent of soybeans
said Craig Venter, president of Celera planted in the U. S. were estimated to be
Genomics, the Maryland firm that led one of transgenic specifically, tolerant to
the mapping teams (6). Monsanto s broad-spectrum herbicide,
Roundup (glyphosate) (9). Transgenic corn
planted in the U.S. offers both insecticidal and
Commercial Transgenic Crops and
herbicide-tolerant traits, though Bt insecticidal
Their Traits
corn predominates.
While increased yields and improved
Other large-acreage transgenic crops include
nutritional value are among the promised
cotton and canola. Most transgenic cotton is
benefits of transgenic crops, most genetically
herbicide-tolerant, though some varieties have
engineered crops now planted worldwide are
the Bt trait; transgenic canola is herbicide-
designed either to 1) survive exposure to
tolerant. The first transgenic wheat, planned
certain herbicides (called herbicide-tolerant
for commercial introduction in 2003, is
crops) or 2) kill certain insect pests (called
Roundup-tolerant.
pesticidal or insecticidal crops).
Other traits engineered into commercial
Genetically engineered herbicide-tolerant crops
transgenic varieties include disease resistance,
have been altered to withstand being sprayed
high pH tolerance, and several nutritional,
with broad-spectrum herbicides, with the idea
taste, texture, and shelf-life characteristics (10).
that one application will take care of most
Other transgenic crops currently on the U.S.
types of weeds without killing the crop.
market include tomatoes, potatoes, sunflowers,
Insecticidal crops contain genes of the soil
peanuts, and sweet mini-peppers. More
bacterium Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt). These Bt
transgenic crops, including rice, are under
genes cause the plants to produce a chemical
development for commercial release in the next
toxic to the European corn borer, the cotton
several years (10).
bollworm, and other caterpillars. (Caterpillars
are the larvae of insects in the Lepidoptera
However, there is evidence that biotechnology
order, which includes moths and butterflies).
firms may be changing course because of
deepening consumer skepticism and tighter
Herbicide-tolerant crops accounted for 71
regulation worldwide, which are increasing the
percent of the acreage planted, worldwide, to
costs and business risks of new transgenic crop
genetically engineered crops in 1998 and 1999.
introductions. A Monsanto spokesman was
Pesticidal crops, or a combination of pesticidal
quoted in the Christian Science Monitor in
and herbicide-tolerant crops, accounted for
August 2001, saying, We re focusing on four
most of the remaining acreage (7).
core crops corn, oilseeds, cotton, and wheat,
the major crops in North America with the
More than 100 million acres of the world s
most acreage and profit potential (11). For a
farmland were planted with transgenic crops
more complete list of current and future
in the year 2000. The United States, Argentina,
commercial transgenic crops and their traits,
and Canada are the world s leading producers
see <http://www.bio.org>, the website of the
of genetically engineered crops, with the U.S.
Biotechnology Industry Organization.
first at 71 percent of the world s total acreage.
Transgenic crops are being shipped to or
Unresolved Issues of Concern
experimented with in many other countries,
including China, India, Australia, and South
Africa (8). There are many unanswered questions about
transgenic crops and their potential benefits,
In 1999, one-quarter of U.S. farmland was
costs, and risks. In fact, according to a recent
planted to transgenic crops. To date, soybeans
independent survey of research data on
and corn cover the most transgenic acres. In transgenic crops, conducted by the Winrock
//GENETIC ENGINEERING OF CROP PLANTS
PAGE 4Foundation s Henry A. Wallace Center for outcrossing from herbicide-resistant wheat to
Agricultural and Environmental Policy, The jointed goatgrass. Frank Young and his
varieties and uses of genetically altered crops colleagues at Washington State University
have grown much more rapidly than our found that imidazolone-resistant wheat (not a
ability to understand...them. The study transgenic variety) outcrossed to goatgrass in
revealed that only four percent of total federal one season (14). Other traits that wild plants
agricultural biotech funding is dedicated to could acquire from transgenic plants that
environmental assessment (12). would increase their weediness are insect and
virus resistance (2).
Following is a brief discussion of some
prominent transgenic-crop-related issues Because of their experience with classically
facing farmers and ranchers. Whether a
bred plants, few scientists doubt that genes
producer is growing transgenic crops, is will move from crops into the wild: seven of
considering growing them, has fields adjoining the world s thirteen most important crop
them, or has markets sensitive to transgenic weeds have been made weedier by genes
crops, these issues are relevant. The purpose of acquired from classically bred crops (13).
the following discussion is not to provide a
Because gene flow has the potential to affect
thorough treatment of each issue, but to farmers crop and pest management, crop
explain in summary fashion what farmers and marketability, and liability, more research
ranchers should be aware of, and to help them needs to be done to determine the conditions
make sense of contradictory claims and stories. under which gene flow from transgenic plants
is likely to be significant.
1. Ecological Issues
Pesticide resistance in insect pests
Gene flow to neighboring crops and to related wild
species Bt has been widely used as a microbial spray
because it is toxic only to caterpillars. In fact, it
Ecological scientists have little doubt that gene is a pest management tool that organic farmers
flow from transgenic fields into conventional depend onone of the few insecticides
acceptable under organic rules. Unlike the
crops and related wild plants will occur. Gene
flow from transgenic to conventional crops is commercial insecticide spray, the Bt
of concern to farmers because of its potential to engineered into crop plants is reproduced in
cause herbicide resistance in related all, or nearly all, the cells of every plant, not
conventional crops. For example, in western just applied on the plant surface for a
temporary toxic effect. As a result, the
Canada, three different herbicide-resistant
canola varieties have cross-pollinated to create possibility that transgenic Bt crops will
canola plants that are resistant to all three accelerate insect pests development of
types of herbicide. Through what is called resistance to Bt is a serious concern. Pest
gene-stacking, this new triple resistance has resistance to Bt would remove this valuable
and environmentally benign tool from farmers
turned volunteer canola into a significant weed
problem (13). and forest managers pest control toolbox. For
more on Bt pest resistance, see <http://
Gene flow from transgenic crops to wild www.pmac.net/ge.htm> (Pest Management at
relatives creates a potential for wild plants or the Crossroads).
weeds to acquire traits that improve their
fitness, turning them into super weeds. For Antibiotic resistance
example, if jointed goatgrass a weedy relative
of wheat acquires the herbicide-tolerant trait As described in the earlier section on how gene
of Roundup Ready wheat, it will thrive in crop transfer is accomplished, the use of antibiotic-
fields unless applications of other herbicides resistant marker genes for the delivery of a
are made. There is already evidence of such gene package into a recipient plant carries the
//GENETIC ENGINEERING OF CROP PLANTS PAGE 5danger of spreading antibiotic-resistant
2. Food Safety
bacteria. The likely result will be human and
animal health diseases resistant to treatment
Because food safety is predominantly a concern
with available antibiotics. Research is needed
of consumers, this paper does not include a
on antibiotic resistance management in
discussion of it. However, because food safety
transgenic crops (15). Already the European
issues do impact marketing and international
Commission s new rules governing transgenic
trade, here is a short list of consumer safety
crops stipulate phasing out antibiotic-resistant
concerns about transgenic food:
marker genes by the end of 2004 (5).
possibility of toxins in food
Effects on beneficial organisms
possibility of new pathogens
reduced nutritional value
Evidence is increasing that transgenic crops
introduction of human allergens
either directly or through practices linked to
transfer of antibiotic resistance to humans
their production are detrimental to beneficial
unexpected immune-system and genetic
organisms. New studies are finding that Bt
effects from the introduction of novel
crops exude Bt in concentrations high enough
compounds
to be toxic to some beneficial soil organisms
(16). In addition, a study by University of
It is in part because of these concerns that
Arkansas scientists has shown that root
consumer demand for organically grown crops
development, nodulation and nitrogen fixation
continues to increase.
are impaired in some varieties of Roundup
Ready soybeans (17). The reason is that the
Allergenicity
beneficial rhizobium responsible for nitrogen
fixation in soybeans is sensitive to Roundup. It
StarLink corn, a transgenic variety,
also appears that disruption of beneficial soil
contains the Cry9C protein, which protects
organisms can interfere with plant uptake of
the growing plant from pests. In 1998,
phosphorus, an essential plant nutrient (18).
federal regulators approved Starlink for
Beneficial insects that prey on insect pests can
livestock feed and ethanol, but banned it in
be affected by insecticidal crops in two ways.
human food because of concerns that the
First, the Bt in transgenic insecticidal crops has
protein could cause allergic reactions. Yet,
been shown in some laboratory studies to be
by the fall of 2000, StarLink had found its
toxic to ladybird beetles, lacewings, and
way into taco shells shipped around the
monarch butterflies (2). The extent to which
world. Many people reported allergic
these beneficials are affected in the field is a
reactions after eating foods later discovered
matter of further study. Second, because the
to contain StarLink. However, proving a
insecticidal properties of Bt crops function
link to StarLink was difficult because the
even in the absence of an economic threshold
products containing it were not labeled and
of pests, Bt crops potentially can reduce pest
people ate it unknowingly. Aventis, the
populations to the point that predator species
company that developed and patented
are negatively affected (19).
StarLink, asked the U.S. Environmental
Protection Agency (EPA) to approve it for
Reduced crop genetic diversity
human consumption after the fact in order
to avoid the costs of removing it from the
As fewer and larger firms dominate the rapidly
world s market. In July 2001, a U.S. science
merging seed and biotechnology market,
advisory panel recommended to the EPA
transgenic crops may continue the trend
that it maintain its ban on StarLink corn in
toward simplification of cropping systems by
human food. The science panel reaffirmed
reducing the number and type of crops
that the Cry9C protein in StarLink corn is
planted. In addition, seed-saving, which
likely to be a human allergen (21).
promotes genetic diversity, is restricted for
transgenic crops (20).
//GENETIC ENGINEERING OF CROP PLANTS
PAGE 6Farmers growing herbicide-tolerant crops
3. Farm Management Issues
need to be aware that volunteer crop plants the
following year will be herbicide-resistant. This
The most widely planted transgenic crops on
herbicide resistance makes no-till or direct-
the market today can simplify short-term pest
seed systems difficult because volunteers can t
management for farmers and ranchers. In the
be controlled with the same herbicide used on
case of herbicide-tolerant crops, ideally farmers
the rest of the crop. In a no-till system that
can use a single broad-spectrum herbicide for
relies on the same broad-spectrum herbicide
all their crop weeds, though they may need
that the volunteer plants are resistant to, these
more than one application in a season. By
plants will contaminate the harvest of a
planting insecticidal crops, farmers can
following conventional variety of the same
eliminate the need to apply pesticides for
crop, a situation farmers need to avoid for two
caterpillar pests like the European corn borer
reasons. First, the contamination means a
or the cotton bollworm, though they still have
following conventional crop will have to be
to contend with other crop pests.
sold on the transgenic market. This leads to the
second reason. If farmers grow and market a
While these crops offer handy pest control
transgenic crop for which they do not have a
features, they may complicate other areas of
technology agreement and did not pay royalty
farm management. Farmers who are growing
fees, they face possible prosecution by the
both transgenic and conventional varieties of
company that owns the transgenic variety.
the same crop will need to segregate the two
Many farmers have been charged with theft
during all production, harvesting, storage, and
of a company s patented seed as a result of
transportation phases if they are selling into
contamination in the field (22).
differentiated markets or plan to save their
own seed from their conventional crops. Read
Farmers growing insecticidal crops need to
about the steps necessary for on-farm
recognize that insect pressure is difficult to
segregation in Appendix 1.
predict and may not warrant the planting of an
insecticidal variety every year. In a year when
To minimize the risk of gene flow from
pest pressure is low, the transgenic seed
transgenic to adjacent conventional crop fields,
becomes expensive insurance against the threat
federal regulations require buffer strips of
of insect damage (23).
conventional varieties around transgenic fields.
Different transgenic crops require different
Farmers growing transgenic crops need to
buffer widths. Because the buffer strips must
communicate with their neighbors to avoid
be managed conventionally, producers have to
contaminating their fields and to ensure that
be willing to maintain two different farming
buffers are adequate. In Maine, farmers
systems on their transgenic fields. Crops
growing transgenic crops are now required by
harvested from the buffer strips must be
law to be listed with the state agriculture
handled and marketed as though they are
department, to help identify possible sources of
transgenic.
cross-contamination when it occurs. The new
law, L.D. 1266, also requires manufacturers or
Planted refuges where pest species can live
seed dealers of genetically engineered plants,
outside fields of insecticidal and herbicide-
plant parts or seeds to provide written
tolerant transgenic crops are also required to
instructions to all growers on how to plant,
slow the development of weed and insect pest
grow, and harvest the crops to minimize
resistance to Bt and broad-spectrum herbicides.
potential cross-contamination of non-
These refuges allow some individuals in the
genetically engineered crops or wild plant
pest population to survive and carry on the
populations (24).
traits of pesticide susceptibility. Requirements
governing the size of refuges differ according
Farm management issues common to all
to the type of transgenic crop grown. transgenic crops include yield, cost, price,
//GENETIC ENGINEERING OF CROP PLANTS PAGE 7profitability, management flexibility, In addition, University of Missouri scientists
sustainability, market acceptance, and reported problems with germination of
liability. Many of these issues are described in Roundup Ready soybeans in the 2001 crop
Appendix 1an article specific to transgenic year (28).
corn and soybean production, but one that all
growers will find useful. Yield and Yields of herbicide-tolerant cotton are
profitability, market acceptance, and liability
reportedly not significantly different from
are also discussed in separate sections below. those of conventional cotton (29).
Herbicide-resistant transgenic canola varieties
4. Crop Yield, Costs, and Profitability
yield less on average than conventional canola
varieties. Transgenic canola costs less than
Some farmers will get higher yields with a
conventional canola to produce, but because of
particular transgenic crop variety than with
its higher yields conventional canola returns
their conventional varieties, and some will get
more profit per acre (30).
lower yields. The same is true for costs. Some
producers will see their overall profitability
Yield: insecticidal crops corn, cotton
rise, and some will see it drop. If the results of
research studies so far on yield, chemical use,
Insecticidal Bt corn and cotton generally yield
costs, crop prices, and profitability of these
crops seem contradictory, it is because farmers higher in most years for some regions
and farms are not all alike. Neither are the according to USDA Economic Research Service
data from 1996 to 1998. Bt cotton, especially,
conventional varieties used for comparison.
outpaces yields of conventional cotton by as
much as 9 to 26 percent in some cases, though
Some yield, cost, and profitability trends do
appear to be emerging from the growing body not at all in others. Yield increases for Bt corn
of research data for transgenic crops, however. have not been as dramatic (31). Time will tell
whether farmers can expect yield increases or
As noted in the Wallace Center report,
decreases in the long run with these and other
Roundup Ready soybeans were designed
transgenic crop varieties.
simply to resist a particular chemical herbicide,
not to increase yields. In contrast, Bt corn and
cotton, by resisting insect pests, may result in Changes in chemical pesticide use
higher yields from reduced pest pressure (25).
One of the promises of biotechnology is that it
Yield: herbicide-tolerant crops soybeans, cotton, will reduce pesticide use and thereby provide
canola environmental benefits and reduce farmers
costs. The herbicide-tolerant and insecticidal
varieties are designed specifically to meet these
Herbicide-tolerant soybeans appear to suffer
goals.
what s referred to as a yield drag. Again, in
some areas and on some farms this tendency of
Roundup Ready soybean varieties to yield less Studies estimate a two to three percent
than their comparable, conventional decrease in U.S. pesticide use, but the effects
vary widely by crop, region, and year.
counterparts varies, but overall, they appear to
average yields that are five to ten percent lower Increased future pesticide use resulting from
per acre (26). As described earlier, impaired the buildup of resistance to heavily used
root development, nodulation, and nitrogen herbicides is a long-term concern (32). Pesticide
fixation likely account for this yield drag. use depends on the crop and its specific traits;
weather; severity of pest infestations; farm
Drought conditions worsen the effects. The
bacterium that facilitates nodulation and management; geographic location of the farm;
nitrogen fixation in the root zone apparently is and other variables. As a result, conclusions
sensitive to both Roundup and drought (27). drawn by various studies analyzing pesticide
//GENETIC ENGINEERING OF CROP PLANTS
PAGE 8use on transgenic crops remain controversial. Profitability
According to the Wallace Center report, in a
review of the data available up through 2000,
Farmers need to consider all the factors that
crops engineered to contain Bt appear to have
determine profitability. No single factor can tell
decreased the overall use of insecticides
the whole story. Transgenic crop seeds tend to
slightly, while the use of herbicide-resistant
be more costly, and farmers have the added
crops has resulted in variable changes in
expense of a substantial per-acre fee charged
overall herbicide use, with increases in use of
by the owners of transgenic varieties. These
some herbicides in some places and decreases
costs have to be considered along with input
in others (33).
cost changes whether herbicide or insecticide
use and costs go down, go up, or stay the same.
The crop for which studies are showing the
Market price is another factor: Prices for some
largest decrease in pesticide use is Bt cotton,
transgenic crops in some markets are lower
with Bt corn resulting in only small changes.
than prices for comparable conventional crops,
Herbicide-tolerant cotton has also resulted in
though rarely are they higher. Farmers need to
little change in herbicide use (2).
watch the markets. Some buyers will pay a
premium for a non-transgenic product, though
The data for herbicide-tolerant soybeans seems
as transgenic seeds find their way into
harder to sort out. A recent study of herbicide
conventional transportation, storage, and
use data on Roundup Ready soybeans by Dr.
processing streams, these premiums may
Charles Benbrook, former executive director of
disappear along with confidence that GMO-
the National Academy of Sciences Committee
free products are in fact truly free of
on Agriculture and now with the Northwest
engineered genes.
Science and Environmental Policy Center,
concludes that the use of herbicides has
5. Marketing and Trade
actually increased because the weeds have
become resistant to Roundup (34). While
Buyer acceptance is a significant marketing
another recent study by Netherlands scientists
issue for farmers raising transgenic crops.
shows a decrease in herbicide use on
Farmers need to know before they plant what
transgenic soybeans, it is clear that weed
their particular markets will or won t accept.
resistance to Roundup may lead to increased
Since most grain handlers cannot effectively
herbicide use and to the need to shift to more
segregate transgenic from non-transgenic crops
toxic compounds in the future (2). American
in the same facility, many companies are
Soybean Association president Tony Anderson
channeling transgenic crops into particular
agrees that the developing resistance of weeds
warehouses. Farmers need to know which ones
to herbicides such as Roundup is a problem
and how far away those are.
(35).
Many foreign markets tend to be more leery of
The Wallace Center report emphasizes the
transgenic products than domestic markets,
importance of ongoing monitoring of pesticide
though trade in transgenic livestock feed is
use data. If farmers abandon integrated pest
more liberal than trade in transgenic human
management, which utilizes a variety of
food. The widespread contamination of corn in
pesticide and cultural control methods, in favor
the U.S. with the Cry9C Bt transgene
of the simplified control offered by herbicide-
(StarLink), which is not approved for human
resistant and insecticidal transgenic crops, then
consumption, has resulted in even further
early findings of reduced pesticide quantities
resistance on the part of buyers to purchasing
and toxicity may not hold over the long run
transgenic products for human food.
(36). Refer to chapter one of the Wallace Center
According to a report in Britain s The Guardian,
report (12) for USDA pesticide use data
No new transgenic crops have been
comparisons between transgenic and
approved by the European Union (EU) since
conventional crops, broken down by crop.
//GENETIC ENGINEERING OF CROP PLANTS PAGE 9April 1998, and a defacto moratorium on
satisfy its requirements before going to
further approvals has been in place since June
market. Compliance with the
1999 (37). Some countries have banned
requirement to document genetic stability
altogether the production and importation of
may be the most difficult provision to
transgenic crops and food products (Sri Lanka
meet, since instability is a common
and Brazil), while many others have put in
characteristic of current DNA transfer
place partial bans or mechanisms to slow their
methods (see How Is Gene Transfer
approval for importation or production.
Accomplished? above). However,
approval under the old directive for any
While the European Union officially lifted its
transgenic crop already on the market in
two-year moratorium on the introduction of
the European Union will be retained.
new transgenic crops in February 2001, during
the debate over labeling and traceability
While the U.S. does not require mandatory
regulations the moratorium remains in effect.
labeling of processed food containing
Under the proposed new EU requirements,
transgenic ingredients, the European Union,
all foods and animal feed derived from
Russia, Czech Republic, Japan, South Korea,
GMOs have to be labeled and, in the case of
Taiwan, Australia, New Zealand, and
processed goods, records have to be kept
Ecuador do (39). Because many domestic
throughout the production chain allowing the
merchandisers of agricultural commodities do
GMO to be traced back to the farm (38). If
not segregate transgenic from conventional
approved, the new regulations will hamper
crop varieties, it is impossible for them and the
the export of U.S. farmers products to the EU
farmers that supply them to serve these food
because the U.S. does not require traceability
markets.
or labeling of transgenic crops.
Twenty percent of corn and 8 percent of
Europe s Proposed Rules (5)
soybeans produced in the U.S. are exported,
and more than 80 percent of these crops is
In July 2001, the European Commission
used in animal feed. Overseas market
adoped a new directive regulating the
restrictions on transgenic crops in the feed
release of transgenic organisms, including
sector are less stringent than those for food
plants, animals, and microorganisms. In
(40). In contrast, 48 percent of U.S. wheat is
its main provisions, European Directive
exported, with nearly half of this food crop
2001 / 18 / EC requires the labeling of all
going to countries that are resistant to buying
products containing GMOs including
transgenic food, particularly Japan and
processed ingredients and guarantees
European nations. Because wheat producers
traceability from field to plate. Long-term
are so dependent on exports, they are
monitoring of transgenic crops following
approaching the introduction of the first
their release is required, as well as
transgenic wheat, expected as soon as 2003,
molecular documentation of their genetic
with caution. The Japanese milling industry
stability. The directive guarantees the
has made it clear that it does not want
public s access to information about the
transgenic products. As a result, Monsanto
release and content of GMOs, and the
has promised not to introduce its Roundup
opportunity for comment prior to a
Ready wheat until Japan gives its approval
proposed release. The directive also
(41). At least two states, North Dakota and
stipulates s phasing- - -out of antibiotic- - -
- - - -
Montana, have considered legislation that
resistant marker genes by the end of 2004.
would place a state moratorium on the
introduction of transgenic wheat. For more
If the Commission s directive is approved
about the wheat industry s reaction to the
by the member states of the European
anticipated introduction of Roundup Ready
Union, all GMOs will eventually have to
wheat, see Appendix 2.
//GENETIC ENGINEERING OF CROP PLANTS
PAGE 10In addition to national and international
6. Liability
policies on the use and importation of
transgenic crops, many countries processors The need to separate transgenic crops from
and retailers have set their own corporate conventional and organic ones opens farmers
policies. Major retail chains in Europe and the
to liability for their product at every step from
U.S. have declared their commitment to
seed to table. Effective systems for segregation
avoiding the purchase of transgenic products,
do not exist at present, and will be costly to
both feed and food. develop and put into place (44). Farmers may
well end up bearing the added costs of crop
For buyers who don t want transgenic
segregation, traceability, and labeling.
products, the likelihood of contamination of
non-transgenic products with engineered In the meantime, farmers who grow transgenic
genes is troublesome. Since 1997, the varietiesand, ironically, those who do
European Union has effectively barred U.S. notare liable for transgenic seeds ending up
corn imports over the possibility that where they aren t wanted: in their own non-
genetically engineered varieties unapproved transgenic crop fields, in neighbors fields, in
in the EU have mixed with sanctioned crops. truckloads of grain arriving at the elevator, in
This has cost American farmers access to a processed food products on retail shelves, and
$200 million-a-year market (42). in ships headed overseas.
Farmers who choose not to grow transgenic
Organic farmers face even bigger marketing
and trade risks, since their buyers can accept varieties risk finding transgenic plants in their
fields anyway, as a result of cross-pollination
no transgenic contamination. The organic
via wind, insects, and birds, which may bring
industry does have a system for segregation,
pollen from transgenic crops planted miles
but recent tests for transgenic material in
away. Besides pollen, sources of contamination
organic products demonstrate that it is not
immune to contamination from conventional include contaminated seed and seed brought in
by passing trucks or wildlife. Those farmers
systems (43). The markets organic farmers have
whose conventional or organic crops are
enjoyed, and those that producers of non-GE
contaminated, regardless of the route, risk
conventional crops could build upon, will
lawsuits filed against them by the companies
likely disappear if contamination of their
products continues to spread. that own the proprietary rights to seed the
farmer didn t buy. Likewise, farmers who grow
transgenic crops risk being sued by neighbors
Until the issues of trade in transgenic crops
and buyers whose non-transgenic crops
and food products, and their labeling and
become contaminated.
traceability, are resolved in international trade
arenas, the markets for U.S. transgenic crops
Because contamination by transgenic material
will remain uncertain. Changes in what any
has become so prevalent in such a short time,
particular country will or won t accept are
all farmers in areas of transgenic crop
occurring all the time, and producers of crops
production are at risk. Insurance, the most
for export are well advised to stay informed of
common recourse for minimizing potential
these changes.
losses because of liability, is not available to
Segregation of transgenic crops and liability the nation s farmers for this risk because
for cross-contamination of conventional and insurance companies do not have enough
information to gauge the potential losses.
organic crops are issues that obviously overlap
with those of marketing and trade. These
Most of the farmers who have been accused
issues are discussed further in the following
section on liability. by transgenic seed companies of illegally
//GENETIC ENGINEERING OF CROP PLANTS PAGE 11growing and harvesting their proprietary who have not in the words of Brian Leahy,
transgenic varieties have paid fines to the executive director of California Certified
Organic Farmers, This technology does not
companies rather than go to court to defend
respect property rights (42). In essence,
themselves. One Canadian grower of non-
farmers who grow transgenic crops on some
transgenic canola, Percy Schmeiser, did go to
court against Monsanto, and lost in a recent of their fields, and farmers who grow none,
ruling that requires him to pay Monsanto the risk bearing tremendous liability. This
situation won t change until farmers either
approximately US$85,000 value of his crop
gain legal protection or until they all grow
and $13,000 in punitive damages. See
transgenic crops on all their fields.
Appendix 3 for a clear analysis of this
farmer s case from the standpoint of the
practicalities of farming, as well as the 7. Influence on Public Research
implications for other farmers, especially those
who traditionally save their own seed for While transgenic crop varieties are generally
planting next year s crop. the property of private corporations, those
corporations often contract with public-sector
In another example, a Texas organic farm s
agricultural research institutions for some of
corn, assumed to be GE-free, was purchased by their development work. In fact, private
a processor who made it into organic tortilla investment in agricultural research, including
chips. Only after the product had been sold germplasm development, has surpassed public
and shipped to European retailers was it
investment in recent years (45). With this shift
discovered to be contaminated with transgenic
in funding sources, the following questions
corn. The processor had to recall its product at become important: Is the private sector unduly
a cost of over $150,000. The processor chose not influencing the public research agenda? Are
to sue the organic farmer, but could have (42). corporations directing public research in less
The retailer, in turn, apparently did not sue the
socially valuable directions while research on,
processor. Had it done so, the liability for the
for instance, sustainable agriculture goes
retailer s loss could have fallen on both the wanting? Are the outcomes of corporate-
processor and the farmer. funded transgenic research and development
by our public institutions equitable across the
According to a Boston Globe story, no figures
food and agricultural sectors? Is equity even a
on farmers losses resulting from liability for
consideration of our public institutions when
transgenic contamination exist, but anecdotal they accept this work?
evidence suggests that cases against farmers
are becoming far more common (42). Until Because intellectual property rights (patents)
laws or legal precedent clarify the extent of apply to living organisms, making them
farmer liability, farmers would do well to private property, the free flow of scientific
avoid making assumptions or claims about the information that has historically characterized
purity of their non-transgenic products. public agricultural research is being inhibited.
Furthermore, producers of transgenic crops What are the implications for the future of
need to take all possible precautions against agriculture and society of the secrecy that now
spreading pollen and seed to their own and surrounds so much of what was formerly
others non-transgenic fields and markets. shared public knowledge? For a brief history of
intellectual property rights as they apply to
A full risk assessment and legal clarification of living organisms, see Appendix 4.
the distribution of liability among farmers,
seed companies, grain handlers, processors, These and other questions need to be
addressed by citizens and their public
and retailers is needed before farmers can rest
assured that transgenic crops won t result in institutions. These issues are of particular
lawsuits against them. For farmers who have concern to farmers and consumers who would
adopted transgenic technology and for those benefit from research into alternative
//GENETIC ENGINEERING OF CROP PLANTS
PAGE 12technologies that are less costly (in every
of corporate control and concentration raises
way), less risky, and more equitable. Equity
the question of whether there remains enough
requires that the economic benefits and risks
competition in the seed industry for seed
of transgenic technology be fairly distributed
pricing to remain competitive. As additional
among technology providers, farmers,
concentration occurs, how affordable will
merchants, and consumers.
seed all seed, not just transgenic seed be for
farmers? This question takes on added gravity
For long-term sustainability, farmers need
as an increasing number of seed varieties
research that focuses on farms as systems,
become proprietary. Farmers can t save
with internal elements whose relationships
proprietary seed for planting and so must
can be adjusted to achieve farm management
purchase new seed every year. In addition,
goals (46). In contrast, transgenic crop
farmers choosing transgenic varieties must
research so far has focused on products that
sign a contract with the owner of the variety
complement toxic chemical approaches to
and pay a substantial per-acre technology fee,
control of individual pest species. These are
or royalty.
products that can be commercialized by large
agribusiness or agri-chemical interests and
that farmers must purchase every year. This The anticipated commercial introduction of
research orientation only perpetuates the cost-
transgenic wheat represents a dramatic shift in
price squeeze that continues to drive so many
an industry in which farmers still widely save
out of farming.
their own seed. As non-transgenic varieties
become contaminated with transgenic ones,
8. Industry Concentration and Farmers
even those farmers who choose to stick with
Right to Save Seed
conventional varieties will lose the right to
replant their own seed. This loss has already
The broadening of intellectual property rights
occurred in Canada s canola industry, with
in 1980 to cover living organisms, including
Monsanto winning its court case against
genes, has resulted in a flurry of mergers and
farmer Percy Schmeiser for replanting his own
acquisitions in the seed and biotech industries.
canola variety that had become contaminated
According to the Wallace Center report,
with Monsanto s Roundup Ready canola. (See
Relatively few firms control the vast majority
Appendix 3 for the story of Percy Schmeiser vs.
of commercial transgenic crop technologies.
Monsanto.)
These firms have strategically developed
linkages among the biotechnology, seed, and
The adoption of transgenic crop varieties has
agri-chemical sectors to capture as much
brought with it an increasing prevalence of
market value as possible. However, these
tightly controlled linkages of product sectors contract production. While contract production
raise serious issues of market access, product
can lead to increased value and reduced risk
innovation, and the flow of public benefits
for growers, farmers are justified in their
from transgenic crops... (47).
concern about their loss of control when they
sign a contract with a private company. Issues
Unlike Plant Variety Protection which does
associated with contract production of
not allow for the patenting of individual
transgenic crops must be considered within the
genes, but only of crop varieties Intellectual
broader context of a sustainable agriculture to
Property Rights prohibit farmers from saving
include ownership, control, and social equity.
their seed and undertaking their own
breeding program, and prohibit plant
9. Regulation of Transgenic Crops
breeders from using the material to create a
new generation of varieties adapted to specific
Much of the controversy over transgenic
regions or growing conditions (48).
crops, both internationally and in the U.S., is
in part a result of how the U.S. regulates
By 2000, agri-chemical giants DuPont and
transgenic crops. The federal government has
Monsanto together owned 73 percent of the
determined that the commercial products of
corn seed producers in the U.S. (49). This kind
//GENETIC ENGINEERING OF CROP PLANTS PAGE 13agricultural biotechnology are substantially environmental and human health risks of
equivalent to their conventional counterparts commercial production of these crops.
and that therefore no new regulatory process
Central to the policy of substantial
or structure is needed for their review and
equivalence is the assumption that only the
approval.
end product of transgenic technology is of
concern not the process of genetic
Currently, three federal agencies regulate the
modification. Canada has adopted a similar
release of transgenic food crops in the U.S.:
approach. Europe and other U.S. trading
the U.S. Department of Agriculture s Animal
partners, however, have taken a more
and Plant Health Inspection Service (USDA-
conservative approach. They focus on the
APHIS), the U.S. Environmental Protection
process of genetic modification the source of
Agency (EPA), and the U.S. Food and Drug
many of the environmental and human health
Administration (FDA).
risks of greatest concern.
USDA-APHIS: The USDA looks at how a
How these different approaches play out in
transgenic plant behaves in comparison with
reality can be summed up simply: The U.S.
its unmodified counterpart. Is it as safe to
and Canada assume a product is safe until it
grow? The data it uses are supplied largely by
is proven to carry significant risk; the
the companies seeking a permit for release of
European Union, which follows the
the new crop. Under fast-track approval, a
precautionary principle, assumes the same
process in place since 1997, companies
product may carry significant risk until it can
introducing a crop similar to a previously
be proven safe. The science used by the two
approved version need give only 30 days
approaches is not fundamentally different.
advance notice prior to releasing it on the
The difference is in the level of risk the
market. According to the Wallace Center
different societies and political systems are
report, APHIS staff estimate that by 2000, 95
willing to accept (53).
to 98 percent of field tests were taking place
under simple notification rules rather than
Precautionary Principle
through permitting (50).
The principle of precaution was developed
EPA: The EPA regulates the pesticides
specifically for issues involving ethics and
produced by transgenic crops, such as the Bt
risk. It is described by Katherine Barrett,
in Bt corn and cotton. It does not regulate the
project director with the Science and
transgenic crops themselves. In contrast to its
Environmental Health Network, as:
regulation of conventional pesticides, the EPA
has set no tolerance limits for the amount of
a process for decision-making under
Bt that transgenic corn, cotton, and potatoes
conditions of uncertainty. The principle
may contain (51).
states that when there is reason to
believe that our actions will result in
FDA: The FDA focuses on the human health
significant harm, we should take active
risks of transgenic crops. However, its rules do
measures to prevent such harm, even if
not require mandatory pre-market safety
cause-and-effect relationships have not
testing or mandatory labeling of transgenic
been proven conclusively . It has been
foods.
invoked in many international laws,
treaties and declarations on a range of
Initially, the U.S. regulatory process for
environmental issues including climate
transgenic food crops required product-by-
change, marine dumping of pollutants,
product reviews. Now, however, to simplify
and general efforts towards
and speed up the process, new products can
sustainability [including the 2000
be approved based on the experience gained
international Cartagena Biosafety
in reviewing earlier products. According to
Protocol on the transfer of living
the Wallace Center report, the implication is
modified organisms ] .there is growing
that some crops might be approved, or
consensus that the precautionary
disapproved, without actual field testing
principle has reached the status of
(52). The regulatory process, in fact, may not
international customary law. (54)
answer most questions about the
//GENETIC ENGINEERING OF CROP PLANTS
PAGE 14which genes are in a plant to select more
The primary elements of the
easily which ones to cross-breed. Before we
precautionary principle are identified by
knew where the genes were, we were still
Barrett as:
breeding in the dark, according to Steven
Briggs, head of genomics for Syngenta, a
1. Avoid harms to the environment that
Swiss biotechnology giant, as quoted in the
are irreversible, persistent,
New York Times (56).
bioaccumulative or otherwise serious.
2. Anticipate and prevent potential
Framework for gauging a technology s
harms at the source, rather than relying
impact on agricultural sustainability
on reactive measures of mitigation, clean-
up, or compensation.
The sustainability of any agricultural
technology can be gauged in part by
3. Recognize the limits of scientific
knowledge and don t expect a full and answering a series of questions that emerge
conclusive understanding of potential
from the principles of sustainable agriculture.
consequences before taking precautionary
Farmers and ranchers can ask themselves
action, especially when the potential
these questions in the context of their own
consequences are long-term, unconfined,
operations to help determine whether
and broad-scale.
adoption of the technology will move them
away from, or toward, increased
4. Shift the burden of proof to the
sustainability.
developers of potentially hazardous
technologies.
1. Does the technology increase genetic
diversity?
5. Finally, some versions of the
2. Does it maintain a positive balance of pests
precautionary principle include analysis of
and predators?
the costs and benefits of precautionary
action, though cost-benefit analysis is not
3. Does it protect or enhance soil biota?
a sufficiently robust decisionmaking
4. Does it decrease the quantity or
framework to stand alone (54).
concentration of toxins released into the
environment?
Implications for Sustainable 5. Does it decrease soil erosion?
6. Does it protect non-target organisms?
Agriculture
7. Does it help protect natural habitats?
8. Does it reduce pest populations and
In contrast to the ecological approach of
viability?
sustainable agriculture, the current generation
9. Does it increase farmers yields? Decrease
of transgenic crops follows a pest management
farmers costs?
model like that employed for chemical
10. Does it increase farmers market control?
pesticides through interventions that are
Management flexibility? Time?
toxic to pests, the Wallace Center report
11. Does it provide benefits to consumers?
points out. This single-tool approach is likely
Will consumers accept it?
to fail in the long run because pests will
12. Does it help citizens globally gain better
successfully develop resistance that allows
access to food?
them to thrive (55).
13. Does it protect the public s access to
information and improve public trust in
Standard plant-breeding methods can
agriculture?
potentially solve many of the same problems
in agriculture that genetic engineers are
If the answer to any of the above questions is no, a
working on, though there are areas in which
cautious approach to the adoption of the
genetic engineering can enhance traditional
technology in question would seem in the interest
plant breeding. Armed with the map of an
of agricultural sustainability.
organism s genetic code, scientists can test
//GENETIC ENGINEERING OF CROP PLANTS PAGE 15from the manipulation of a few genes, but
Conclusion
from our enhanced understanding of how
nature works (58).
Evelyn Fox Keller, author of The Century of the
Gene (57), describes the scientific
Regardless of the future direction of transgenic
understanding of genetics that originated
technology, one thing remains certain: Many of
with the discovery of DNA in 1953, and on
the unresolved issues for farmers, ranchers,
which the current generation of transgenic
and the general public will not be settled
crops is still based:
through the use of biological or natural
For almost fifty years, we lulled sciences alone. Ethical and social issues are
ourselves into believing that, in
critical components in a meaningful evaluation
discovering the molecular basis of
of this controversial technology (60).
genetic information, we had found the
secret of life; we were confident that if
References:
we could only decode the message in
DNA s sequence of nucleotides, we
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1307 New York Avenue, N.W.
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Suite 400
Washington, D.C. 20005-4722
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202-478-6040
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202-478-6046 fax
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Street Journal. April 5.
29) Wallace Center report, op. cit., p. 21. A summary
44) ESCOP/ECOP. op. cit., p. 14.
of research by Klotz-Ingram, et al. 1999.
45) Ibid., p. 10.
30) Fulton, M. and L. Keyowski. 1999. The producer
benefits of herbicide-resistant canola. University
46) Union of Concerned Scientists. 2000.
of Saskatchewan. AgBioForum. Vol 2, No. 2. p.
Biotechnology and Sustainable Agriculture.
85-93.
From the website of the Union of Concerned
<http://www.agbioforum.missouri. edu>.
Scientists at <http://www.ucs@ucsusa.org>.
Address: 2 Brattle Square, Cambridge, MA
31) Wallace Center report, op. cit., p. 21.
02238. Ph. (617) 547-5552.
32) Ervin, David E., et al. 2001. Public Research for
47) Wallace Center report, op. cit., p. 53.
U.S. Biosafety Regulation of Transgenic Crops.
Paper prepared for Biotechnology, Science and
48) Deppe, Carole. 2000. Breed Your Own
Modern Agriculture: A New Industry at the
Vegetable Varieties: The Gardener s and
th
Dawn of the Century, 5 International
Farmer s Guide to Plant Breeding and Seed
nd
Conference organized by the International
Saving. Chelsea Green Publishing. 2 edition.
Consortium on Agricultural Biotechnology
p. 270.
Research (ICABR), Ravello, Italy. June 15-18.
p 1.
49) Massey, Rachel. 2000. Sustainability and ag
biotech. In: Rachel s Environment and Health
33) Wallace Center report, op. cit., p. 19-20.
News. No. 686, Feb. 10. Environmental Research
Foundation, Annapolis, MD. Rachel s is
34) Benbrook, op. cit., p. 3, 15.
available on the Web at
<http://www.rachel.org>.
35) Environment News Service (ENS). 2001.
Herbicide resistant weeds spring up in
50) Wallace Center report, op. cit., p. 35.
bioengineered soy fields. May 4.
51) Ibid., p. 36-37.
36) Wallace Center report, op. cit., p. 15-17.
52) Ibid., p. 34.
37) Osborn, Andrew. 2001. GM multinationals are
thrown a lifeline with new regulations. The
53) For a good, concise discussion of international
Guardian (Britain). Feb. 15.
labeling issues, which are heavily influenced by
differences in regulatory approaches to
38) Evans, David. 2001. EU presents tough rules on
transgenic crops, see pages 13-16 of Agricultural
gene labels, tracing. Reuters. July 24.
Biotechnology: Critical Issues and Recommended
Responses from the Land-Grant Universities. For a
39) Schrade, Ann and Steve Raabe. 2001. States join
full citation and information on how to
global fight over biotech labeling. Denver Post.
download or order a copy, see citation no. 1
May 29.
above.
//GENETIC ENGINEERING OF CROP PLANTS
PAGE 1854) Barrett, Katherine. 2000. Risk and precaution in
Further Resources
agricultural biotechnology: A role for science
and scientists. Inquiry in Action, the newsletter
The following publications are included as additions
of the Consortium for Sustainable Agriculture
to the excellent resources cited above in the
Research and Education. Special double issue
References section.
No. 2627, Spring-Summer 2000. p. 16-19. Center
for Integrated Ag Systems, University of
Hubbell, B.J. and R. Welsh. 1998. Transgenic
Wisconsin-Madison, 1450 Linden Drive, Rm.
crops: Engineering a more sustainable
146, Madison, WI 53706. Ph. (608) 265-6483.
agriculture? Agriculture and Human Values
55) Wallace Center report, op. cit., p. 10.
15. p. 43−56.
56) Pollack, Andrew. 2001. Mapping genes may
National Research Council (NRC), Board on
help breed better food, bypassing genetic
Agriculture. 2000. Genetically Modified Pest-
engineering. New York Times. March 7.
Protected Plants: Science and Regulation.
National Academy Press, Washington, DC.
57) Fox Keller, Evelyn. 2000. The Century of the
Gene. Harvard University Press. 192 p.
Rissler, J., and M. Mellon. 1996. Ecological
Risks of Engineered Crops. MIT Press,
58) Kirschenmann, Fred. 2001. A common ground
to discuss genetics. Leopold Letter. Vol. 13, No. Cambridge, MA.
2. Summer 2001. p. 6. The Leopold Letter is the
newsletter of the Leopold Center for Sustainable
Royal Society of Canada. 2001. Elements of
Agriculture, 209 Curtiss Hall, Iowa State
Precaution: Recommendations for Regulation
University, Ames, IA 50011. Ph. (515) 294-3711.
of Food Biotechnology in Canada. Ottawa.
The Leopold Letter is also available on the Web at
January, 2001.
<http://www.leopold.iastate.edu>.
Most of the sources for this publication were
59) Ag BioTech InfoNet. 2001.
retrieved from the Internet, an important source of
<http://www. biotech-info.net/new_era.html>.
current news and information about the rapidly
changing field of transgenic technology. Many
60) ESCOP/ECOP. op. cit., p. 4.
thanks to the Henry A. Wallace Center for
Agricultural and Environmental Policy at Winrock
International for permission to use the following list
of Internet resources from Transgenic Crops: An
Environmental Assessment (12). These Web site
URLs were verified and updated Aug. 2001 by
Wallace Center staff.
Governmental and Quasi-governmental
Entities
Ag-West Biotech, funded by Saskatchewan s
Department of Agriculture and Food:
http://www.agwest.sk.ca/
• publishes AgBiotech Bulletin,
http://www.agwest.sk.ca/e_bulletin.
shtml
Australian Department of Health and Aged
Care, Office of the Gene Technology Regulator
(OGTR):
http://www.health.gov.au/ogtr/index.htm
//GENETIC ENGINEERING OF CROP PLANTS PAGE 19Belgian Service of Biosafety and Biotechnology Organisation for Economic Co-operation and
(SBB) Development (OECD)
• Belgian Biosafety Server, • BioTrack Online (Biotechnology
http://biosafety.ihe.be/Server.html Regulatory Developments in OECD
Member Countries),
Biosafety Information Network and Advisory http://www.oecd.org/ehs/country.
Service (BINAS), a service of the United htm
Nations Industrial Development Organization • Database of Field Trials,
(UNIDO) http://www.olis.oecd.org/biotrack.nsf
• BINAS Online,
http://binas.unido.org/binas/index. U.K. Department for Environment, Food &
php3 Rural Affairs, Advisory Committee on Releases
to the Environment (ACRE):
Biotechnology Australia, a collaboration of five http://defra.gov.uk/environment/acre/index.
Commonwealth Government departments: htm
http://www.biotechnology.gov.au/
U.K. Department of Trade and Industry (DTI),
Canadian Biotechnology Advisory Committee, Biotechnology and Pharmaceuticals
part of Industry Canada • BioGuide (guide to biotechnology
• Canadian Biotechnology Strategy support and regulations in the U.K.),
Online, http://dtiinfo1.dti.gov.uk/sectors/
http://strategis.ic.gc.ca/SSG/bh00127 biotechnology.htm
e.html
U.N. Environment Programme (UNEP),
Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA), part International Register on Biosafety (IRB):
of Health Canada http://www.unep.org/unep/program/natres
• Office of Biotechnology, /biodiv/irb
http://www.inspection.gc.ca/english/
ppc/biotech/bioteche.shtml U.N. Food & Agriculture Organization,
• Plant Health and Production Division, Technical Cooperation Network on Plant
Plant Biosafety Office, Biotechnology in Latin America and the
http://www.inspection.gc.ca/english/ Caribbean (REDBIO/FAO):
plaveg/pbo/pbobbve.shtml http://rlc.fao.org/redes/redbio/html/home.
Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) htm
• Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety,
Biosafety Clearing-House (BCH), U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA),
http://www.biodiv.org/bch Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service
(APHIS)
CSIRO Australia (Australia s Commonwealth • Agricultural Biotechnology
Scientific and Industrial Research information,
Organisation) http://www.aphis.usda.gov/biotechno
• Gene Technology in Australia, logy/
http://genetech.csiro.au/ • United States Regulatory Oversight in
Biotechnology,
European Commission, Joint Research Centre http://www.aphis.usda.gov/biotech/
(JRC): http://www.jrc.org/ OECD/usregs.htm
International Centre for Genetic Engineering
and Biotechnology (ICGEB)
• Biosafety Web Pages,
http://www.icgeb.trieste.it/~bsafesrv/
//GENETIC ENGINEERING OF CROP PLANTS
PAGE 20U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA),
Cooperative State Research, Education, and Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition
Extension Service (CSREES), Agricultural (CFSAN)
Research Service (ARS) • Biotechnology information,
• Biotechnology Risk Assessment http://vm.cfsan.fda.gov/~lrd/
Research Grants Program (BRARGP), biotechm.html
http://www.reeusda.gov/crgam/
biotechrisk/biotech.htm Nonprofit Biotechnology Entities
U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA),
AgBioTechNet (Online Service for Agricultural
Cooperative State Research, Education, and
Biotechnology, from CABI Publishing, with
Extension Service (CSREES), Agricultural
support from Agricultural Biotechnology
Research Service (ARS), National Agricultural
Support Project):
Library (NAL)
http://www.agbiotechnet.com/
• Biotechnology Information Resource
(BIC), http://www.nal.usda.gov/bic/
Agricultural Biotechnology Support Project
(ABSP), formerly Agricultural Biotechnology
U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA),
for Sustainable Productivity project (USAID-
Cooperative State Research, Education, and
funded project awarded to Michigan State
Extension (CSREES), Agricultural Research
University s Institute of International
Service (ARS), Plant Genome Research
Agriculture): http://www.iia.msu.edu/absp/
Program
• GrainGenes (database for small grains
Bioline International
and sugarcane),
• publishes BioSafety Journal,
http://wheat.pw.usda.gov/index
http://www.bioline.bdt.org.br/by
frame.html
Consultative Group for International
U.S. Department of Health and Human
Agricultural Research (CGIAR) Research
Services (HHS), National Institutes of Health
Centers:
(NIH)
http://www.cgiar.org:80/centers.htm
• Bioethics Resources on the Web
(including biotechnology),
European Federation of Biotechnology (EFB):
http://www.nih.gov/sigs/bioethics/
http://efbweb.org/
• Agri-Biotechnology Section,
U.S. Department of State, Office of
http://www.agbiotech.org/pages/
International Information Programs
efb/home.html
• Biotechnology: Food Security and
• EFB Task Group on Public Perceptions
Safety (thematic issue of Economic
of Biotechnology,
Perspectives Vol. 4, No. 4, October 1999),
http://www.kluyver.stm.tudelft.nl/
http://www.usinfo.state.gov/
efb/tgppb/main.htm
journals/ites/1099/ijee/bio-toc.htm
• Global Issues: Biotechnology,
Illinois-Missouri Biotechnology Alliance
http://www.usinfo.state.gov/topical/
(IMBA): http://www.ssu.missouri.edu/imba/
global/biotech
• publishes AgBioForum magazine,
http://www.agbioforum.missouri.
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA),
edu/
Office of Pollution Prevention and Toxics
• Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA)
Biotechnology Program,
http://www.epa.gov/opptintr/
biotech/
//GENETIC ENGINEERING OF CROP PLANTS PAGE 21Information Service for National Agricultural
Nonprofit Consumer and Environmental
Research (ISNAR)
Entities
• ISNAR Biotechnology Service (IBS),
supported by Government of The
Ag BioTech InfoNet (sponsored by a
Netherlands, Government of
consortium of scientific, environmental, and
Switzerland, Government of Japan, and
consumer organizations):
others,
http://www.biotech-info.net
http://www.cgiar.org/isnar/ibs.htm
The Edmonds Institute:
Information Systems for Biotechnology (ISB),
http://www.edmonds-institute.org
part of the National Biological Impact
Assessment Program (NBIAP) and
Genetic Resources Action International
administered by USDA/CSREES
(GRAIN): http://www.grain.org/front.cfm
• International Field Test Sources,
http://www.isb.vt.edu/cfdocs/
Greenpeace International
globalfieldtests.cfm
• Genetic Engineering information,
• publishes ISB News Report,
http://www.greenpeace.org/~geneng
http://www.isb.vt.edu
/gehome.htm
International Food Information Council (IFIC)
Rural Advancement Foundation International
• Food Biotechnology information,
(RAFI): http://www.rafi.org/
http://ific.org/food/biotechnology.
vtml
Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS), Food and
Environment Program
International Service for the Acquisition of
• Biotechnology information,
Agri-Biotech Applications (ISAAA):
http://www.ucsusa.org/food/
http://www.isaaa.org
0biotechnology.html
• publishes FoodWeb (formerly Gene
National Agricultural Biotechnology Council
Exchange),
(NABC), a consortium of 30 leading
http://www.ucsusa.org/agriculture/
agricultural research and teaching universities
foodweb.html
in the U.S. and Canada:
http://www.cals.cornell.edu/extension/
Industry Trade Associations and For-profit
nabc/
Entities
National Biotechnology Information Facility
AGBIOS (Agriculture & Biotechnology
(NBIF), based at New Mexico State University:
Strategies, Canada): http://www.agbios.com/
http://www.nbif.org
Agricultural Groups Concerned about
University of Guelph, Department of Plant
Resources and the Environment (AGCare),
Agriculture (Canada)
representing producer groups in Ontario,
• Food Safety Network, Genetically
Canada: http://www.agcare.org
Engineered Food/Crops,
http://www.plant.uoguelph.ca/
American Crop Protection Association (ACPA)
safefood/
• Issues: Agricultural biotechnology
information, http://www.acpa.org/
//GENETIC ENGINEERING OF CROP PLANTS
PAGE 22BioAbility (formerly Institute for
By Nancy Matheson
Biotechnology Information, IBI):
ATTRA Program Specialist
http://www.biotechinfo.com
October 2001
BIOTECanada:
http://www.biotech.ca/EN/index.html
The author gratefully acknowledges Montana
Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO):
ecologist Jill Davies and Rick Welsh of
http://www.bio.org
Clarkson University for their valuable review
of earlier drafts of this paper and,
Council for Biotechnology Information (CBI):
along with David Ervin of Portland State
http://www.whybiotech.com/en/default.asp
University, for the information sources they
provided. Thanks also to Suzanne DeMuth of
Food Biotechnology Communications Network
the Wallace Center for Agricultural and
(FBCN) (Canada):
Environmental Policy at Winrock
http://www.foodbiotech.org
International for her help.
The Electronic version of Genetic Engineering of
Crop Plants is located at:
HTML
http://www.attra.org/attra-pub/geneticeng.html
PDF
http://www.attra.org/attra-pub/PDF/geneticeng.pdf
//GENETIC ENGINEERING OF CROP PLANTS PAGE 23hybrids are best suited to extremely
APPENDIX 1
early or late corn plantings where
the risk of injury to the corn borer is
GMO Issues Facing Indiana
greatest.
Farmers in 2001
• The glyphosate tolerant soybean
technology is a very handy weed
R.L. (Bob) Nielsen, Agronomy Dept., Purdue
control tool and often lowers total
Univ., West Lafayette, IN 47907-1150
weed control costs, but cannot be
Dirk Maier, Ag. & Biological Engineering
considered critically important for
Dept., Purdue Univ., West Lafayette, IN 47907-
the success of soybean production
1146
in Indiana. The same holds true for
For publication in Purdue Pest Management & glyphosate tolerant and glufosinate
tolerant corn hybrids.
Crop Production Newsletter, March 23, 2001
Because these transgenic crop traits are NOT
The global debate over genetically modified
CRITICAL for the success of Indiana farmers,
organisms, specifically transgenic crop
varieties, shows little evidence of slowing the choice of whether to grow them or not
down. Whether you favor transgenic plant depends primarily on the farmer s assessment
of the uncertainty of market acceptance for
breeding or not, the short term effects on
such products and/or the available seed
market acceptance for transgenic crops in
supply of alternative non-transgenic varieties.
general are impacting corn and soybean
farmers directly. You only have to look at the
uproar caused by the contamination of last What if a farmer elects not to use transgenic
crop varieties, but is concerned about the risk
year s commercial corn and seed corn
of contamination of his/her grain by
production by the Cry9C Bt transgene
transgenic grain? In other words, what are the
(approved for animal consumption and
industrial use but not human consumption) to possible means by which one can end up with
realize how quickly the global debate can hit transgenic grain interspersed with that
produced from a non-transgenic variety?
home.
Seed Supply. Seed producers face the same
As Indiana farmers prepare for the 2001
growing season, what can they expect? Will challenges of producing pure non-transgenic
there be any more unexpected red flags crop seed as do commercial grain producers.
regarding the acceptance of currently available Consequently, most have been reluctant to
assure 100 % pure seed relative to transgene
transgenic crop varieties? What can farmers do
contamination.
to best minimize the transgenic market risk to
their farming operations?
In late December, the USDA strongly
First of all, recognize that NONE of the recommended that seed companies sample and
currently available insect-resistant or test all of their 2001 seed corn lots and all seed
parent lines for the presence of the Cry9C Bt
herbicide-tolerant corn or soybean varieties are
CRITICAL for the success of Indiana farmers. transgene because of the hue and cry raised
last fall with the discovery of this genetic
• European corn borer, the corn pest material in corn flour and products made from
targeted by Bt corn hybrids, occurs corn flour. Any seed lot testing positive for
infrequently enough and at Cry9C will be channeled into feed or non-food
sufficiently low levels that the use industrial use. USDA also recommended that
of Bt hybrids is not economical for seed companies provide the verification
most Indiana corn growing information to customers when customers ask
situations (Hyde et al. 1998). Such for it.
//GENETIC ENGINEERING OF CROP PLANTS
PAGE 24APPENDIX 1
The seed industry has responded to this transgenic seed lots first, followed by the
demand by supposedly testing all seed lots for transgenic varieties. In this way, any seed
the presence of the Cry9C Bt transgene. carrying over from one seed lot to another in
Unfortunately, seed companies cannot the planter will be from non-transgenic to
guarantee zero presence of Cry9C in any seed transgenic and not the other direction.
lot. The currently available quantitative tests,
when used with appropriate sampling Pollen Drift Control. Corn is a cross-
intensities, are capable of detecting the pollinating plant species, meaning that pollen
presence of the Cry9C protein at the minimum freely moves with the wind throughout a corn
detectable level of no less than about 0.2 % field and, to a limited degree, outside of the
with a 99 % probability. field during the active pollination period.
While recent research on the extent of pollen
Every corn grower needs to take reasonable drift strongly suggests that the majority of corn
precautions to avoid introducing the Cry9C Bt pollen from a field lands within a very short
transgene into the 2001 corn crop. At a distance from the field, some small percent of
minimum, corn farmers should verify before pollen will travel a quarter of a mile or further
they buy and insist on receiving the results and still be viable. Consequently, pollen drift
from the USDA-recommended seed testing represents a means of transgene contamination
plan for the Cry9C Bt transgene. Ask for the for farmers growing non-transgenic hybrids
results in writing, keep this documentation for adjacent to fields of transgenic hybrids.
your records, and help to assure the integrity of
the 2001 harvest. Additionally, consider saving Communication with neighbors is an
a sample of seed from each lot of supposed important aspect of pollen drift awareness.
non-transgenic hybrid or variety for purity Farmers should find out what corn hybrids
retesting in the event that you need to re-verify will be planted adjacent to their fields of non-
the non-transgenic integrity of a particular transgenic corn, and document the hybrid seed
seed lot. lot information and planting dates. In Indiana,
the risk of pollen drift is greatest from fields of
At a maximum, ask for written assurances for corn planted to the southwest of the field in
ANY transgene contamination in any non- question because of the direction of the
transgenic corn or soybean variety. Some prevailing winds in mid-summer. Taking the
companies have taken the extra steps to test for time to note the dates of pollen shed in your
any transgene contamination in their non- field and adjacent fields will help you
transgenic hybrid seed lots and are making this determine the relative risk of pollen drift.
information available to their customers.
The risk of pollen drift from neighboring
Previous Crop & Variety. Because of the risk transgenic corn fields may require the
of transgenic volunteer corn, any field planted harvesting and segregation of a certain amount
to a transgenic variety in 2000 (especially the of corn around the perimeters of a non-
Cry9C Bt transgene) should not be planted to transgenic field, certainly no less than 660 feet
corn again in 2001. Similarly, be sure to from the field edge. Corn harvested from those
prevent any such volunteer corn in this year s buffer strips should be fed on the farm, or
soybean fields from setting seed. channeled to elevators willing to accept
transgenic corn.
Planting Operation. Let s say that a farmer has
obtained a pure supply of non-transgenic Harvest Operation. Combines should be super
seed corn or soybean, but will also be planting cleaned prior to the start of grain harvest to
some transgenic varieties in 2001. Obviously, minimize the risk of any leftover grain from
then, there will be some potential for seed 2000 in the machine. If non-transgenic and
contamination during the planting operation. transgenic varieties are grown on the same
The best advice here is to plant the non- farm, then the sequence of harvesting those
//GENETIC ENGINEERING OF CROP PLANTS PAGE 25APPENDIX 1
fields should follow the FIF-FOF (First-In- • Avoid planting glyphosate tolerant corn.
Field, First-Off-Field) principle. This means Remember that glyphosate tolerant corn
that non-transgenic varieties planted in the hybrids are approved only in the U.S. and
field first should be harvested before Japan, but not elsewhere around the globe.
transgenic ones to avoid transgenic grain No quick test kits currently exist for this
commingling with non-transgenic grain from transgene and no tolerance levels have
the nooks and crannies of the combine. been established. Even though some grain
buyers are assuring farmers that they will
Handling, Storage & Transport. All grain purchase grain from these hybrids, farmers
transport vehicles (trucks, wagons, trailers, bear the sole risk for rejection at the first
grain carts), all grain handling equipment point of sale should buying policies change
(augers, legs, pits, wet holding bins, dryers) at any time in the future.
and all grain storage facilities should be super
cleaned prior to the start of grain harvest. By • Recognize that grain elevators would
following the FIF-FOF principle during prefer not to accept any transgenic corn
harvesting, the post-harvest operations will that does not have full approval for the
benefit because non-transgenic varieties can be global market place and, subsequently,
received, dried and transferred to storage may change their stance on acceptance of
ahead of transgenic varieties. Obviously, such grain this fall.
transgenic and non-transgenic grain should be
stored separately on-farm to avoid grain Be aware that Monsanto has established a
commingling, and to take advantage of channeling program for glyphosate tolerant
potential premiums for identity-preserved corn. When buying glyphosate tolerant
grains in the market place. corn seed, farmers commit in writing to
market the grain from these hybrids only
Assuming that transgenic grain was put into through approved channels. We urge all
storage last, then emptying storage facilities for farmers to live up to this commitment!
transport to market should begin with the Approved channels are over 2000 U.S.
transgenic grain in order to avoid an extra elevators that are willing to buy non-EU
cleaning step, and thus, reduce the chance of approved grains. The American Seed Trade
contamination. However, given that this Association maintains an online database
strategy will depend on a farmer s marketing of grain handling facilities that have
plan, all grain transport vehicles and grain indicated a willingness to purchase,
handling equipment should be super cleaned receive, and handle genetically enhanced
prior to every time that non-transgenic grain corn products that have full U.S.
load-out follows transgenic load-out in order to registration for food and feed use, but are
avoid commingling of grain leftover from the not yet approved for import into the
previous handling operation. European Union. The Web address for the
ASTA database is
<http://asta.farmprogress.com/>.
Guidelines for Corn, 2001:
• Recognize that grain processors have urged
• Expect little or no economic benefit from
producers only to plant varieties that have
planting approved Bt corn varieties in
full approval for the global market place
Indiana.
and, subsequently, will unlikely accept any
transgenic corn this fall.
• Make sure seed corn is certified clean for
StarLink according to the USDA test
Be aware that Monsanto, as part of their
protocol. Obtain a written verification from
channeling program, is also establishing a
the seed company.
database of every farmer who purchases
glyphosate tolerant corn seed. Although
//GENETIC ENGINEERING OF CROP PLANTS
PAGE 26APPENDIX 1
they have committed not to reveal names Harl, Neil E., Roger G. Ginder , Charles R.
and addresses, they will work with any Hurburgh and Steve Moline. 2001.
The StarLink Situation. Iowa State Univ. On
inquiring processor and reveal to them
the Web at:
how many acres of glyphosate tolerant corn
<http://www.exnet.iastate.edu/Pages/grain/
were planted in the areas from where they
publications/buspub/0010star.PDF>.
plan to purchase corn. For any area that a
processor raises concern, Monsanto will
Hyde, Jeffrey, Marshall A. Martin, Paul V.
contact those farmers and remind them to
Preckel, and C. Richard Edwards.
market their corn only through approved
1998. The Economics of Bt Corn: Adoption
channels after harvest. We urge processors
Implications. Purdue Univ.
to inquire about glyphosate tolerant acres
Cooperative Extension Service. Publication ID-
and urge all farmers to comply with the
219. On the Web at:
channeling program!
<http://www.agcom.purdue.edu/AgCom/
Pubs/ID/ID-219.pdf>.
Guidelines for Soybean, 2001:
Monsanto Company. 2000. Grain Channeling
• Non-transgenic soybean seed supplies are
Information. On the Web at:
limited.
<http://www.farmsource.com/Product_Info/
GrainChannel.html>.
• Some grain buyers have specialty contracts
for non-transgenic soybeans.
USDA - Grain Inspection, Packers and
Stockyards Administration. 2000a.
• Grain buyers and processors will be buying
Letter sent by USDA to seed companies,
glyphosate tolerant soybeans.
December 27, 2000. On the Web at:
<http://www.usda.gov/gipsa/biotech/
• Foreign buyers have been buying and
starlink/122700seedletter.htm>.
appear to continue to be willing to buy
glyphosate tolerant soybeans (and meal).
USDA - Grain Inspection, Packers and
Stockyards Administration. 2000b. GIPSA
References:
StarLink“ (Cry9C) Testing Program. On the
Web at:
American Seed Trade Association. December
<http://www.usda.gov/gipsa/biotech/
2000a. Grain Handlers Database. On
starlink/starlink.htm>.
the Web at: <http://asta.farmprogress.com/>.
USDA - Grain Inspection, Packers and
American Seed Trade Association. December
Stockyards Administration. 2000c.
2000b. USDA Calls for Testing Seed
Sampling and Testing Recommendations for
Corn for Presence of StarLink (Cry9C
the Detection of Cry9C Protein in
Protein). On the Web at:
Hybrid Seed Corn. On the Web at:
<http://www.amseed.com/newsupdate/
<http://www.usda.gov/gipsa/biotech/
asta_special_news_122900.html>.
starlink/cry9cdetection.htm>.
Corn Refiners Assoc. 8 March 2001. Protecting
the 2001 Corn Crop from Cry9C For other information about corn, take a look at
Protein. A Joint statement issued by the Corn the Corn Growers Guidebook
Refiners Association, North
American Millers Association, North
' 2001, Purdue University
American Export Grain Association, and
Published at the Chat n Chew Cafe,
National Grain and Feed Association. On the
12 March 2001 (rev. 20 March)
Web at:
at: http://www.kingcorn.org/news/
<http://www.corn.org/web/rels0301cry9c.
articles.01/GMO_Issues-0312.html
htm>.
//GENETIC ENGINEERING OF CROP PLANTS PAGE 27Monsanto is expected to announce next week
APPENDIX 2
the formation of a wheat-industry committee to
advise it on how and when to put wheat
Wheat Industry Is Cautious on
genetics on the market, including the current
Biotech Introduction
front-runnerRoundup Ready wheat.
By Bill Hord
As it does in corn and soybeans, the Roundup
World-Herald via AgriBiz.Com
Ready gene would allow farmers to use the
May 29, 2001
company s potent Roundup herbicide to kill
weeds without affecting the wheat plant.
The word is out in the food industrydon t
Monsanto expects to have the new plant ready
mess up when it comes to wheat. Wheat is the
for farmers by 2005 and possibly as early as
world s favorite crop. It is bread, pasta, apple
2003.
pie crust, cookies and pastry. Be careful.
Many farmers would welcome a wheat plant
The U.S. wheat industry began waving the
that would allow them to use weed killers or
caution flag more than a year ago as some
would ward off wheat diseases.
consumers around the world rebelled against
food that contains genetically manipulated
It would make my life a lot easier, said Dan
soybeans or corn.
Hughes, a Grant, Neb., farmer. But it doesn t
do me any good if I can t sell the wheat.
Now even Monsanto Inc., a company that is a
leader in inserting new genes in plants, has
Wheat is Nebraska s third largest crop behind
gotten the word about wheat.
corn and soybeans, with most of the state s
wheat production coming from the drier
We are breaking new ground, and we have to
regions of the south and southwest. In 1999,
proceed carefully, said Mark Buckingham, a
the state s farmers exported $119 million worth
Monsanto spokesman at the company s
of their $186 million wheat crop to foreign
headquarters in St. Louis.
markets. Kansas was the nation s leader with
$805 million worth of wheat exports.
Monsanto introduced the first GMO
(genetically modified organism) for a
Very little wheat is grown in Iowa, where
major U.S. cropsoybeansin 1996. Now,
higher annual rainfalls favor corn and
nearly two-thirds of the U.S. soybean crop is
soybeans, two crops that do not do as well as
made up of GMOs, up from 54 percent last
wheat in drier climates.
year.
Even as the industry frets about stability in
But wheat is different. Forty-eight percent of all
wheat markets, researchers all over the country
U.S. wheat is exported, compared to 20 percent
are testing plots.
for corn and 8 percent for soybeans. And
nearly half of all wheat exports go to countries,
The University of Nebraska-Lincoln is testing
such as Japan and European nations, that have
GMO wheat designed to resist diseases,
a real sensitivity about GMOs. To lose foreign
increase seed size and improve protein or
customers would be an economic disaster to
starch quality.
the U.S. wheat industry.
I truly believe transgenic wheat will be sold in
The concern is so great that the state legislature
the future, said Steve Baenziger, a wheat
of North Dakota considered a proposal in
breeder at UNL. Tom Clemente, manager of
recent months to put a moratorium on the plant genetics research at UNL s Beadle
growing of GMO wheat. In the end, the Center, said, These products (being tested at
legislation was amended to require a study of UNL) wouldn t be in growers hands for years
the issue instead. to come.
//GENETIC ENGINEERING OF CROP PLANTS
PAGE 28APPENDIX 2
Monsanto s Buckingham said researchers are First, says Hanavan, the world needs to agree
also testing wheat plants that would improve on a tolerance standard. StarLink s problems
the quality of frozen dough or make it possible were multiplied because the standard was zero
for people with a physical intolerance for tolerance, meaning that a trace of StarLink was
wheat gluten to eat wheat products. enough to have it turned away from food use
even though a trace was hardly considered
There is a lot of potential down the road for problematic by scientists.
very direct consumer benefits, Buckingham
said. Second, wheat growers want a reliable system
for keeping GMO wheat separated from
Wheat industry leaders say they have learned conventional wheat. No such system existed
their lesson from StarLink, the cuss word in when the Environmental Protection Agency
plant genetics circles. decided StarLink could be grown for livestock
feed but not for human food.
I hate to even mention the word, said Darrell
Hanavan, chairman of a joint wheat-industry Hanavan said wheat industry organizations
committee on biotechnology and executive want to make progress toward a day when
director of the Colorado Wheat Administrative biotech wheat can have a place in the food
Committee. chain without jeopardizing wheat sales around
the world.
StarLink was a corn plant genetically designed
to release a protein that would kill corn borers. Our whole policy position is based on the
Although it was approved only as a livestock premise that we support biotechnology,
feed pending further study of whether it Hanavan said. It holds great promise for the
would aggravate allergies, the corn found its future, but our concern is with market
way into taco shells. acceptance.
The result was upheaval in the grain markets,
including rejection of some U.S. corn ** NOTICE: In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C.
shipments by Japan. There is now universal Section 107, this material
agreement in the food industry that no new is distributed for research and educational
seed should be sold until it has full purposes only. **
government approval for human consumption.
Last month, Japan informed Hanavan and a
team of U.S. wheat industry leaders that it
would take its business elsewhere if U.S.
farmers begin growing GMO wheat.
Essentially, they said that at this point in time
there is no consumer acceptance of biotech
products, Hanavan said.
In an unprecedented concession, Monsanto has
committed to withholding GMO wheat from
the market until Japan gives its approval.
Wheat industry leaders have determined that
two other things are needed before GMO
wheat seeds should be sold to farmers, both of
which are lessons learned from StarLink.
//GENETIC ENGINEERING OF CROP PLANTS PAGE 29nonetheless, and fined $15/acre x 1030 acres.
APPENDIX 3
Monsanto also seeks the value of his crop:
$105,000 (Canadian) plus $25,000 for punitive
On the Implications of the Percy
and exemplary damages.
Schmeiser Decision
He also lost the improved genetics resulting
By E. Ann Clark, Ph.D.
from his lifelong practice of saving his own
Plant Agriculture, University of Guelph
seed to produce his own tailor-made variety of
Guelph, Ontario
canola, as the crop was confiscated. The harm
that has been done to Percy and Louise
The Crime of Percy Schmeiser
Schmeiser, now in their 70s, is grievous. But of
even greater concern is how this incomprehen-
Let us first be clear on the crime for which
sible decision will affect all western Canadian
Saskatchewan farmer Percy Schmeiser was
farmers regardless of whether they even grow
found guilty. He was found guilty of a) having
canola, let alone genetically modified (GM)
Monsanto genetics on his land, and b) not
canola.
advising Monsanto to come and fetch it. He
was not found guilty of brownbagging
The Problem(s) with Canola
obtaining the seed fraudulently. Indeed, all
such allegations were dropped at the actual
Canola is a relatively primitive crop, and as
hearing, due to lack of evidence.
such, retains many of the characteristics of a
wild species. Unlike corn and wheat, which
Regardless, in his 29 March 2001 decision
have been domesticated by over 10,000
[http://www.fct-cf.gc.ca (click on bulletins)],
generations of breeding, canola pods mature
Judge W. Andrew MacKay made it clear that
unevenly, obliging farmers to cut and place the
how it got there didn t matter anyway. The
crop in windrows to allow the green seed to
guilt was the same. Specifically, to quote
dry prior to combining. The dry pods also
MacKay, the source of the Roundup resistant
shatter upon maturity, dropping a fraction of
canola...is really not significant for the
the mature seed to the ground. The seed retains
resolution of the issue of infringement....
dormancy, meaning that especially under the
reduced or no-till conditions favored in the
It also didn t matter that Schmeiser did not
−10
prairies, the seed can remain dormant for 6
benefitat allfrom the RR seed. In order to
years, depending on the type of cultivar
derive any economic benefit from growing
Polish or Argentineand the seed can
Roundup Ready (RR) seed, you d either have
germinate anytime in the season,not just in the
to sell it as seed, or spray Roundup. He did
spring prior to seeding.
neither. He sold the crop as grain, not as seed,
and he didn t spray Roundup. He acknowl-
Further, because the seed is very small, round,
edges spraying Roundup around his telephone
and smooth, it travels readily in the wind. It is
poles, a standard practice, which first alerted
not uncommon for windrowed canola to be
him in 1997 to the contamination in his field
picked up and blown over adjoining fields.
because some of the plants didn t die. Then, in
Seed is known to be dispersed by haul trucks
typical farmer fashion, he got out his sprayer
either blown out the top if uncovered or falling
and made a couple of passes leading away
off the exterior if not filled tidily. Schmeiser s
from the road to see how far the contamination
contaminated fields are to the east side of a
reached: the total sprayed area was 3 acres out
major haul road leading to Bruno,
of the hundreds of acres sown in 1997. None of
these points are disputed. No oneincluding Saskatchewan, and the prevailing wind
Monsantoargued that Schmeiser actually direction is west to east. The initial samples
or even intended to benefitfrom used by Monsanto to charge Schmeiser were
benefitted
actually taken from the roadsidenot the sown
growing a crop contaminated with RR plants.
But it didn t matter. He was guilty fields.
//GENETIC ENGINEERING OF CROP PLANTS
PAGE 30APPENDIX 3
Although canola is primarily a self-pollinating in places where it was never sown, and even
species, outcrossing is in the range of 20−30%, where no canola has been sown, in western
and canola pollen can move long distances, Canada.
several km at least, primarily via insect
pollinators. The required isolation distance for The impossibility of reproductive isolation
hybrid canola seed is 800 m. Who is it that has both on-farm and post harvestis nowhere
to absorb the cost of installing an 800 m buffer better illustrated than the recent occurrence of
between GM and non-GM crops on contamination within Monsanto s own RR
neighboring farms? Pollen has always Quest canola. Seed with an unapproved RR
movedit did not start with genetic gene was found to contaminate bags carrying
modification. But this is the first time we ve seed with the approved RR gene, obliging the
called it genetic pollution, because the genes urgent recall of thousands of bags of seed,
that move are proprietary. some of which was already on-farm and being
sown. This is just the latest example of cross
To put these numbers into perspective, Alberta contamination within the seed trade itself, of
Agriculture has calculated that even at 0.2% which StarLink contamination in the corn to be
outcrossing (with a neighbor s RR canola, for sown in 2001 is perhaps the best known
example), a crop yielding 25 bu/acre with 3% example.
shattering losses would deposit 10,000
outcrossed seeds/acre, or 4 outcrossed seeds How then can farmers be held accountable for
per square meter (http://www.agric.gov.ab.ca something that the seed trade itself cannot do?
/crops/canola/outcrossing.html). And that is Well, they can t, and even Monsanto knows it.
So, Monsanto s positionwhich the judge
just the genetic pollution from a single season.
inexplicably acceptedis that all the farmer
The lengthy dormancy interval of canola
allows the soil seed bank of contaminated seed has to do is call them up and they ll come out
to accumulate in the soil with each successive and deal with it. No matter how the
year s addition. proprietary genes got there, the judge held that
the farmer is accountable for it, and they are
or risk
Land can be contaminated with proprietary obliged to inform Monsanto about it
seed in other ways. If you intentionally the fate of Schmeiser.
planted RR canola [or any other herbicide
tolerant (HT) canola variety], shattered RR Between a Rock and a Hard Place
seed would contaminate your soil next year
anyway, and the next, and the next. Now, this is an interesting conundrum. Put
Emergence of volunteer canola in subsequent yourself in the position of a farmer. To
crops is nothing new in western Canadabut appreciate the gravity of the choice on-offer,
what is new is that the volunteer plants bear you need to appreciate how Monsanto s hired
proprietary genes and are tolerant to one or investigators operate. They come to the door,
more common herbicides. advise you that you re suspected of brown-
bagging, and offer you a letter stipulating what
You can also bring RR canola into your land you must pay to avoid being formally
inadvertently, as an unavoidable contaminant prosecuted. Should you choose to pay the fee,
in your sown crop. Cross contamination of you are also obliged to sign a letter which
seed crops with GM seed is now so pervasive states that by signing, you agree to remain
that seed companies will no longer guarantee silent and tell no one about what has
them 100% GM-free, even in the seed they sell happened, or face further prosecution.
to farmers, for any field crop that has been Let s say you know that you have one or more
subject to genetic modification. of Roundup Ready, Liberty Link, Navigator/
Compas or SMART canola (tolerant to the
In the aggregate, these arguments explain the herbicides glyphosate, glufosinate ammonium,
widespread occurrence of RR canola growing bromoxynil, or some ALS inhibitors,
//GENETIC ENGINEERING OF CROP PLANTS PAGE 31APPENDIX 3
respectively) on your land. You know this could not stop, and that will reoccur annually
because, like Schmeiser, the plants didn t die so long as neighbors choose to grow HT
when you used the corresponding herbicide. canola?
So, what do you do?
Like the StarLink debacle which continues to
Do you call up the company (Monsanto, haunt US corn growers, marketers, consumers,
Aventis, Aventis, and/or Pioneer, government officials, and the seed trade itself,
respectively), inform them that you have the guilty verdict in the case of Percy
infringed upon their respective patent(s), and Schmeiser illustrates some of the shortcomings
ask them to come out for a visitthen hope of applying GM technology to field crop
they arrive with a sprayer and not a subpoena? agriculture. Far from making food cheaper,
If the latter, no one will ever know, will they? GM technology will necessarily make food
Or do you wait for a neighbor to report you for more expensiveand particularly, but not
suspected brownbagging, using the solelyfor those who have chosen not to grow
anonymous hotline set up by Monsanto for GM crops.
that purpose?
Why should non-GM growers be obliged to
If the respective company(-ies) come out and adjust their rotation and herbicide schedules
actually do spray out the offending plants, do and field design in order to protect their own
you call them back again a few weeks later, crops from contamination from neighboring
when late germinating canola has emerged in GM crops? Why should non-GM growers have
your wheat or pea crop? How is it that they to absorb costs of coping with gene flow that is
are going to eradicate these late germinating, unwanted, involuntary, and unavoidableor
potentially seed-bearing HT plants, in your face prosecution? Why should those who have
established crop? Will they compensate you managed their crop specifically for the high-
for damage done to your crop in the process, or premium GM-free market be forced to lose the
from spray drift (a particular problem with the premium because of contamination from
herbicide of choice, 2,4-D) to your adjoining neighboring land? Why should any farmer be
crops, or your neighbor s? forced to accept GM contamination in the seed
they sow on their own land?
What if it was canola you were intending to
plant in the contaminated field? You know Why should taxpayers be obliged to support
that you will not be able to distinguish the mushrooming government infrastructure
volunteer HT canola from whatever canola needed to monitor, regulate, and negotiate to
you ve planted. You know that volunteer HT keep GM crops in the marketplace, and the
canola will set seed and shatter, just like your virtually endless costs of recalling
sown canola, re-contaminating the land with contaminated seed and food products from the
patent-infringing seed. By definition, if you market? Why should consumers have to pay
grow canola on land known to have HT canola more for food that is worth no more (and
in the seed bank, your problems will arguably, less to them) because the costs of
necessarily amplify over time. Where you had dealing with unwanted GM both on the farm
one HT plant this year, you could have dozens and in the marketplace must, necessarily, be
next year. So, do you abstain from growing passed on to the consumer?
canola entirely? For how long, given that fresh
contamination can occur annually? Why should all growers be penalized by
plummeting crop prices incurred because a
Or do you take responsibility yourself for minority of growers chose to grow GM,
eliminating the proprietary plants? Do you causing traditional clients to refuse to buy GM-
adjust your crop rotation, your herbicide contaminated grain and instead to patronize
expendituresand your bottom lineto cope off-shore sources? Since when do importing
with contamination that you did not want and countries have to buy GM grains, just because
//GENETIC ENGINEERING OF CROP PLANTS
PAGE 32APPENDIX 3
we want to grow them? What happens when
the traits that move are not HT, but vaccines,
pharmaceuticals, plastics, and industrial
enzymes? When is the Canadian government
going to stop promoting the commercialization
of a technology which has so clearly been
released prematurely into the marketplace, and
which so clearly externalizes its true costs of
production involuntarily and unavoidably to
its own citizens?
E. Ann Clark, Plant Agriculture, University
of Guelph, Guelph, ON
Copyright 2001 E.A.Clark
This article first appeared in the Genetics Society of
Canada Bulletin, June 2001. It is reprinted here
from Dr. Clark s website at <http://www.plant.
uoguelph.ca/faculty/eclark/> where other talks
and articles are posted.
//GENETIC ENGINEERING OF CROP PLANTS PAGE 33no effective protection for biotechnology. Any
APPENDIX 4
singular bioengineered trait (e.g., a gene) can
be legally copied and transferred to another
A History of Intellectual Property
distinct variety.
Rights (IPRs)
IPRs for living organisms are national rights
and vary substantially from one country to
Appendix 2 from
another, both in coverage and enforcement.
Agricultural Biotechnology:
Patent rights for living organisms continue to
Critical Issues and Recommended
be hazy in the European Union, and many
Responses from the Land-Grant
developing countries explicitly exclude plants
Universities
and animals from patent or patent-like
protection. The 1993 Uruguay Round of the
A report to the Experiment Station Committee on
GATT agreement changed this balance by
Organization and Policy (ESCOP) and the
recognizing that exports of industrialized
Extension Committee on Organization and Policy
countries tend to be technology-rich. As such,
(ECOP) January 21, 2000
absence of IPRs protection in certain regions
acts as a trade barrier. The Trade Related
Efforts to secure legal protection for inventions
Aspects of IPRs (TRIPS) addition to the GATT
related to living organisms while accounting
agreement created a framework for increased
for their self-replicating and natural origin
standardization of IPRs for plants and animals
started several decades ago. Improved plant
around the world and the adoption of a
cultivars, when propagated as clones, have
minimum standard, in most cases PBRs.
been awarded protection since 1930 under the
Plant Patent Act. Furthermore, Plant Breeders
Rights (PBRs) are patent-like rights for
cultivated plants. PBRs were organized in 1961
The report this is reprinted from can be viewed or
under the International Union for Protection of
downloaded as a pdf file on the Web at:
New Varieties (UPOV), an international
http://www.escop.msstate.edu/committee/
convention. The US adopted PBRs in 1970.
agbiotec.pdf
In 1980 the Supreme Court in the significant
Chakrabarty decision extended the scope of
utility patents to living organisms. Specific
extension to plants was decided by the patent
office in 1985 (Ex parte Hibberd) and to
animals in 1987 (Ex parte Allen). Utility patent
claims require demonstration of novelty,
utility, and non-obviousness. By comparison,
the tests for PBRs certificates are uniformity,
stability, and distinctiveness.
PBRs and utility patents differ in some
significant respects. PBRs make allowances for
farmers rights (farmer saved seed) and include
a research exemption for the use of protected
material in the development of new varieties.
PBRs also apply to whole plants or
propagating material. Typically they do not
protect individual and unique characteristics of
a protected variety. Accordingly, they provide
//GENETIC ENGINEERING OF CROP PLANTS
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//GENETIC ENGINEERING OF CROP PLANTS
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