GMOs and Biodiversity
Looking for clear answers regarding human health is a big part of the GMO controversy. But there’s more to think about than our bodies. What about the broader environmental impact of GMOs?
“Safety,” in sum, has been narrowly defined as human nutritional health, excluding many important safety dimensions and ignoring impacts on the larger agricultural, social and ecological systems.
Let’s look at weed-resistant crops, for starters.
According to a market report published by Transparency Market Research, the global glyphosate herbicides market was valued at USD 5.46 billion in 2012 and is expected to reach USD 8.79 billion by 2019.
There’s more to worry about than simply weeds, however, when it comes to herbicide resistant crops. There’s also growing concern that these GMOs can mess with biodiversity on the farm and beyond.
Mexico announced that the number of monarch butterflies hibernating in Mexico reached an all-time low in 2013. Many factors have contributed to a sharp decline in monarch populations in recent years, including loss of reproductive habitat caused by land-use changes and reduction of milkweed (primary food source for monarch larvae) from herbicide use in the United States and Canada.
And butterflies are just one example.
What about the spread of transgenes to wild or weedy relatives, the impact of GMOs on nontarget organisms (especially weeds or local varieties) through the acquisition of transgenic traits via hybridization, the evolution of resistance to pests (in case of Bt crops), accumulation of Bt toxins, which remain active in the soil after the crop is plowed under and bind tightly to clays and humic acids and the unanticipated effects of the Bt toxin on nontarget herbivorous insects?
Clearly, the GMO debate reaches beyond human health, and hopefully we won’t let Earth’s biodiversity become a tragic casualty of the GMO controversy.
For more on GMOs impact on the environment, read Maywa Montenegro’s article here:
Loss of biodiversity also reported by Deniza Gertsberg:
And for more information on Monarch butterflies: