ENVIRONMENTAL ISSUE: GENETIC ENGINEERING (GE)

In GE, unlike traits of a species are combined genetically in biotechnology to form a transgenic. Planting these crops contaminates wild plants to cause a biodiversity loss since some have chimeric gene blend that might result to biological contamination and accelerate extinction of important organisms in nature. It is also a supposed seed terminator since GE plants cannot produce seeds, which are saved by farmers for food sustenance. Soil sterility is affected for instance by a GM bacterium called Klebsiella planticola, which cause a sterility of soil by killing essential nutrients. Bio-invasions results from GM crops, which kill beneficial insects like the monarchy butterfly and bees. As a result, it has become a controversial debate in the recent past due to its supposed violation of environmental health (UCS, 2010).

Biotechnology is the root source of GE where desired genes are combined to form a different species through artificial selection.  There have been tight regulations and total bans imposed on the genetically modified foods especially within the Europe Union. GE is not only associated with direct effects to human health but most importantly, its adverse contribution to the environment that has raised concern of environmentalists all over the world. As a result, GE products have been restricted in the market. This has called for more efforts through testing for such products, labeling GE foods, and in maintenance of natural crops to avoid effects of transgenic products and their release to the natural environment, which is restricted to avoid ramifications.

The potential effects of GE on the environment include creation of super-weeds, thus causing unwanted impacts in inhibiting crop yield or even displacing natural flora to cause a disruption of the entire ecosystems. Besides, genetic pollution may occur in that novel genes modified through GE are not restricted agriculturally and if there are nearby related species in the fields, there is a high likelihood of transfer of pollen grain. Genetic pollution has no clean up since it might be hard to identify GE crops in the wild, causing irreversible effects.  As a result the new plats gain more vigor, resistance and therefore, difficult to deal with (LeVine, 2006).

Alterations in patterns of herbicide application occur since GE plants are modified to be herbicide resistant. This might result to more use of herbicides where farmers might use them in a liberal way (UCS, 2010). Since herbicides vary in environmental toxicity, more devastating environmental effects are incurred. Moreover, such resistant crops would trigger an evolution where weeds would become more resistant due to more exposure or transfer of the resistant genes to related species. Additionally, GE causes a lavishing of important pest vulnerable genes in insects, which are prevalent in natural insect’s populations. The genes are crucial since they let the pesticide to effectively manage pests.

Particular GE crops are modified to have a Bt endotoxin, which persist inside the soil for not less that eighteen months. They secrete the toxin in several tissues hence exposing pests to it. Such timely exposure cause a resistant gene in the pest, as the Bt pesticide ends up being useless since it is transferred to wild plants to form super-weeds, that cause a disruption in balance of nature. There is also an emergence of harmful viruses since GE is geared at producing plants that tolerate viruses through incorporation of viral component in their genome to resist infections. However, they might establish new harmful virus with higher virulence in the process of recombination or transcapsidation. In addition, poisoned wildlife may result from being endangered by consumption of plant debris since it contains certain viral promoters e.g. CaMV attached to it. This is detrimental to mammalian organs and immune system. CaMV, being a Para retrovirus may cause reactivation of dormant viruses and establish new ones (Benny, 2009).

To sum it all, transgenic organisms when released in the environment may cause an injury to genetic diversity, as it might contaminate natural gene pools. Probable mutations might result, which could eliminate the natural genes. These mutant genes are detrimental to the environment and this might spoil the local ecology and the food chain where GE crops compete with related wild species (UCS, 2010). It is therefore the role of man to safeguard the ecosystem in order to promote sanctity, serenity, as well as development by avoiding technologies that would be detrimental. This will safeguard earth as our home and the resources therein, through united efforts for people from all walks of life, aspects that are in line with St. Leo‘s value of respect and responsible stewardship.

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