Ecological Implications

Dangers of Genetic Pollution

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What is Genetically Engineered oilseed rape?

  • The genetically engineered oilseed is a new variety which is resistant to glufosinate ammonium, a powerful herbicide. Therefore, the herbicide can now be sprayed at any time, killing all the weeds but leaving the crop intact.

    Genetic pollution

  • Interbreeding between various crop plants and wild plants that are closely related occurs commonly. Research has shown that the genetically engineered genes can be passed onto these wild plants. If traits such as weed-killer and insect resistance are passed to wild plants, new 'superweeds' could develop. This will inevitably result in greater dependence and use of agrochemicals, rather than less, as is claimed by the biotechnology companies.

  • Government's advisors on the safety of genetically engineered foods rely on results of tests conducted by the Biotech companies themselves. There is independent Government research, but the results will not be ready until 2001. Facts indicate that health-damaging effects caused by genetic engineering will continue forever.

  • Genetic pollution is self-perpetuating. Once weeds have multiple resistance genes, which may occur within just a few growing seasons, they will be particularly difficult to control. It can never be reversed or cleaned up; genetic mistakes will be passed on to all future generations.

  • Crop seeds travel hundreds of miles between seed merchant, farmer and processing factory, therefore spillage in transport is inevitable and could easily result in accidental, yet dangerous situations. Some crops can "escape" into the wild and become a pest as well. Oilseed rape can be found in hedgerows and roadsides. If these are resistant to herbicides then they may become difficult to control and cause ecological damage by competing with other local plants.

  • As consumers, we must be critical of the dangers of genetically engineered food imposed by our government. Genetic engineering is a very new and inexact science. Already there are numerous indications of the potential for great damage to the environment and to human health from genetically engineered foods. Recently it was found that 80% of supermarket milk contained traces of either medicines or illegal antibiotics used on farms or hormones, including genetically engineered bovine growth hormone (rbGH). The facts show that regulators are not protecting the public adequately. (Ref:Epstein, S.S. (1996) INT. JOUR. HEALTH SERVICES, 26:173.)

    Crop Contamination

  • Another threat from genetically engineered crops is that it will become impossible to guarantee supplies of food free of genetic engineering. Genetically engineered crops and organic crops can cross-pollinate each other, so farmers not wanting to grow genetically altered crops could find their crops contaminated anyway. Oilseed rape pollen can travel distances over one and a half miles. This means that protecting crops from contamination will be extremely difficult and will be impossible once more genetically engineered crops are introduced.

  • Organic standards do not allow any GE material in food, but with pollen able to travel long distances, organic crops could be contaminated. Organic farmers could lose their organic status. At present there is no legal protection for organic farmers, and they do not even have to be told when a GE crop is planted in their neighborhood. Consumers concerned with their health and that of their family should work to protect, rather than destroy organic farming.

    Increased pollution of food and water supply:

    More than 50% of the crops developed by biotechnology companies have been engineered to be resistant to herbicides. Use of herbicide-resistant crops will lead to a threefold increase in the use of herbicides, resulting in even greater pollution of our food and water with toxic agro-chemicals. (Ref: Goldberg, R.J. (1994) WEED TECHNOLOGY 6:647.)


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