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Recent advances in gene editing technology promise much for medical advances and human well-being. However, in parallel domains, there have been objections to the use of such biotechnologies. Moreover, the psychological factors that govern the willingness to use gene editing technology have been underexplored to date. In this registered report, we sought to test whether pathogen disgust sensitivity is linked with opposition to gene editing. U.K.-based adult participants (N = 347) were recruited to this study. Gene editing attitudes reflected two largely distinct latent factors concerning enhancing human traits and treating medical disorders. In contrast to prediction, pathogen disgust sensitivity was related to greater support for gene editing in both of these domains. This result suggests that gene editing, at least in the current study, is not viewed as pathogenic, or that the perceived benefits of gene editing outweigh any perceived pathogen risk.
Food is essential for human survival. When the right quantity and quality is taken, it ensures growth and an adequate supply of nutrition to the body, which results in basic effectiveness in all spheres of life. Genetically modified crops have the potential to alleviate hunger and provide more food, especially in developing countries that have high levels of hunger, malnutrition and poverty. Although the debates on genetically modified crops generally focus on intellectual property, other issues include health and environmental concerns. This article examines these issues with the aim of providing holistic knowledge of the subject matter, which is important for stakeholders, particularly in developing countries, in deciding to protect plant variety rights. The article concludes that it is essential for developing countries to consider food security issues in fulfilling their obligations under the TRIPS Agreement.
Gene flow among herbicide-resistant (HR) canola varieties can lead to the development of multiple HR canola plants, creating volunteer canola management challenges for producers. In western Canada, escaped populations of HR canola are ubiquitous outside of cultivated fields, yet the extent of gene flow resulting in herbicide resistance trait stacking in individuals within these populations remains unknown. The objectives of this study were to document the presence of single and multiple herbicide resistance traits and assess the extent of gene flow within escaped canola populations. Seed was collected from 16 escaped canola populations along the verges of fields and roadways in four agricultural regions in southern Manitoba from 2004 to 2006. Glyphosate resistance was found in 14 (88%) of these populations, glufosinate resistance in 13 (81%) populations, and imidazolinone resistance in five (31%) populations. Multiple herbicide resistance was observed at levels consistent with previously published canola outcrossing rates in 10 (62%) of the tested populations. In 2005 and 2006, maternal plants from two escaped populations were tested using trait indicator test strips for glyphosate and glufosinate resistance to confirm outcrossing events. In 2005, two of 13 tested maternal plants with single herbicide resistance traits produced progeny with both glyphosate and glufosinate resistance. In 2006, of 21 tested plants, 10 single HR maternal plants produced multiple HR progeny, and five nonresistant maternal plants produced resistant offspring. This is the first report indicating that intraspecific gene flow results in stacking of herbicide resistance traits in individuals within escaped canola populations, confirming that multiple HR canola volunteers are not confined to agricultural fields. Results of this study suggest that escaped populations of crop plants can contribute to the spread of genetically engineered novel traits, which has important implications for containment, especially for highly controversial pharmaceutical and industrial traits in crop plants.
A segment of the debate surrounding the commercialization of genetically
engineered (GE) crops, such as glyphosate-resistant (GR) crops, focuses on
the theory that implementation of these traits is an extension of the
intensification of agriculture that will further erode the biodiversity of
agricultural landscapes. A large field-scale study was conducted in 2006 in
the United States on 156 different field sites with a minimum 3-yr history
of GR corn, cotton, or soybean in the cropping system. The impact of
cropping system, crop rotation, frequency of using the GR crop trait, and
several categorical variables on emerged weed density and diversity was
analyzed. Species richness, evenness, Shannon's H′, proportion of forbs,
erect growth habit, and C3 species diversity were all greater in
agricultural sites that lacked crop rotation or were in a continuous GR crop
system. Rotating between two GR crops (e.g., corn and soybean) or rotating
to a non-GR crop resulted in less weed diversity than a continuous GR crop.
The composition of the weed flora was more strongly related to location
(geography) than any other parameter. The diversity of weed flora in
agricultural sites with a history of GR crop production can be influenced by
several factors relating to the specific method in which the GR trait is
integrated (cropping system, crop rotation, GR trait rotation), the specific
weed species, and the geographical location. The finding that fields with
continuous GR crops demonstrated greater weed diversity is contrary to
arguments opposing the use of GE crops. These results justify further
research to clarify the complexities of crops grown with
herbicide-resistance traits, or more broadly, GE crops, to provide a more
complete characterization of their culture and local adaptation.
New and improved glyphosate-resistant (GR) crops continue to be rapidly developed. These crops confer greater crop safety to multiple glyphosate applications, higher rates, and wider application timings. Many of these crops will also have glyphosate resistance stacked with traits that confer resistance to herbicides with other modes of actions to expand the utility of existing herbicides and to increase the number of mixture options that can delay the evolution of GR weeds. Some breeding stacks of herbicide resistance traits are currently available, but the trend in the future will be to combine resistance genes in molecular stacks. The first example of such a molecular stack has a new metabolically based mechanism to inactivate glyphosate combined with an active site-based resistance for herbicides that inhibit acetolactate synthase (ALS). This stack confers resistance to glyphosate and all five classes of ALS-inhibiting herbicides. Other molecular stacks will include glyphosate resistance with resistance to auxin herbicides and herbicides that inhibit acetyl coenzyme A carboxylase (ACCase) and 4-hydroxyphenyl pyruvate dioxygenase (HPPD). Scientists are also studying a number of other herbicide resistance transgenes. Some of these new transgenes will be used to make new multiple herbicide-resistant crops that offer growers more herbicide options to meet their changing weed management needs and to help sustain the efficacy of glyphosate.
With increasing incidence of glyphosate-resistant weeds worldwide, greater farmer awareness of the importance of glyphosate stewardship and proactive glyphosate-resistance management is needed. A Web-based decision-support tool (http://www.weedtool.com) comprising 10 questions has been developed primarily for farmers in western Canada to assess the relative risk of selection for glyphosate-resistant weeds on a field-by-field basis. We describe the rationale for the questions and how a response to a particular question influences the risk rating. Practices with the greatest risk weighting in western Canadian cropping systems are lack of crop-rotation diversity (growing mainly oilseeds) and a high frequency of glyphosate-resistant crops in the rotation. Three case scenarios are outlined—low, moderate, and high risk of glyphosate-resistance evolution. Based on the overall risk rating, three best-management practices are recommended to reduce the risk of glyphosate resistance in weeds.
Glyphosate-resistant (GR) crops are produced over large areas in North America. A study was conducted at six western Canada research sites to determine seed date and tillage system effects on weed populations in GR spring wheat and canola cropping systems from 2000 to 2003. Four-year wheat–canola–wheat–pea rotations were devised with varying levels of GR crops in the rotation. Weed populations were determined at pre– and post–in-crop herbicide application intervals in 2000 and 2003. Early seeding led to higher and more variable in-crop wild oat and wild buckwheat populations. High frequencies of in-crop glyphosate wheat in the rotation usually improved weed management and reduced weed density and variability. Canonical discriminant analysis (CDA) across all locations revealed that by 2003, green foxtail, redroot pigweed, sowthistle spp., wild buckwheat, and wild oat, all associated with the rotation lacking in-crop glyphosate. Similar CDA analyses for individual locations indicated specific weeds were associated with 3 yr of in-crop glyphosate (Canada thistle at Brandon, henbit at Lacombe, and volunteer wheat, volunteer canola, and round-leaved mallow at Lethbridge). However, only henbit at Lacombe and volunteer wheat at Lethbridge occurred at significant densities. Although excellent weed control was attained in rotations containing a high frequency of GR crops, the merits of more integrated approaches to weed management and crop production should also be considered. Overall, rotations including GR spring wheat did not significantly increase short-term weed management risks in conventional tillage or low soil-disturbance direct-seeding systems.
This article examines the impact of Bt corn adoption in the Philippines using an econometric approach that addresses simultaneity, selection, and censoring problems. Although previous literature emphasizes the importance of simultaneity and selection problems, this is the first study that addresses the issue of censoring in estimating the effects of Bt corn adoption at the farm in a developing country context. We show that Bt corn adoption provides modest but statistically significant increases in farm yields and profits. Furthermore, our results provide some evidence of inference errors that can potentially arise when censoring in the pesticide application variable is ignored in the estimation procedures.
We assessed the effects of cultivating two genetically modified (GM) glyphosate-tolerant soybean varieties (Glycine max (L.) Merr.) derived from Event 40-3-2 and a Japanese conventional variety on arthropods under field conditions, with weed control using glyphosate and conventional weed control for two years. Plant height and dry weight of the conventional variety were significantly larger than those of the GM varieties, but the GM varieties bore more pods than the conventional variety. We found arthropods of nine taxonomic orders (Araneae, Acari, Thysanoptera, Homoptera, Heteroptera, Coleoptera, Diptera, Lepidoptera, and Hymenoptera) on the plants. The arthropod incidence (number per plant unit weight pooled for each taxonomic order) on the soybean stems and leaves generally did not differ significantly between the GM and conventional varieties. However, the incidence of Thysanoptera and total incidence (all orders combined) were greater on the GM variety in the second year. The weed control regimes had no significant influence on the arthropod incidence on the soybean stems and leaves. The number of flower-inhabiting Thysanoptera (the dominant arthropod in the flowers) was not significantly different between the GM and conventional varieties. Asphondylia yushimai (Diptera, Cecidomyiidae) was more numerous on the pods of the GM variety in both years. Neither the soybean variety nor the weed control regime significantly affected the density of soil macro-organisms. However, the glyphosate weed control affected arthropods between the rows of plants by decreasing the abundances of Homoptera, Heteroptera, Coleoptera and Lepidoptera, and diversity of arthropods.
Risk assessments of new insect-resistant crops will need to estimate the potential for increased weediness of wild crop relatives as a consequence of gene flow. When field experiments are precluded by containment concerns, simulation experiments can identify hazards or measure expected differences between GMOs and parental plants. To measure plant fitness consequences of wild plant protection from Bt-susceptible herbivores, we used topical sprays of bacterial Bacillus thuringiensis larvacide (Bt) on Brassica rapa. Spontaneous crosses between B. rapa and Bt cole crops cannot be precluded, especially if adoption of Bt varieties leads to high exposure. We compared survivorship and seed output of B. rapa that were either protected from or exposed to Bt-susceptible Lepidoptera in the various conditions where hybrids are likely to occur: cultivated (disked) soil,
uncultivated agricultural field margins, and nearby non-crop habitats (meadows and ruderal areas). The relative effect of herbivore protection varied among years, habitats, and populations of seedlings. In 2003–2004, Bt sprays did not result in lower herbivory on B. rapa, and plant fitness was not increased. However, in 2004–2006 B. rapa seedlings protected from Bt-susceptible herbivores lived 25% longer, on average, than those that were exposed to these herbivores. In addition, an average B. rapa seedling sprayed with Bt throughout its lifetime was twice as likely to produce siliques and had 251% of the seed output of a seedling exposed to herbivores. The fitness advantage of Bt-based plant protection was apparent in 2004–2005 in half the plants that experienced higher herbivory, and for 2005–2006, was more pronounced in agricultural habitats than in meadows with established, perennial vegetation and less disturbance. Positive effects of Bt-based plant protection and greater fitness in disturbed habitats suggest that crop-wild gene flow may benefit weed populations, and that field tests with herbivore exclusion/addition experiments are feasible alternatives when molecular containment of transgenes restricts field experiments with insect resistant crop-wild hybrids.
Recent concern about gene flow from transgenic plants to weedy species has attracted much research on the fitness of their hybrids. However, no studies have been reported on the very early effects of the seed size of hybrids compared with parental plants for germination, seedling establishment and plant growth. We produced hybrids between male sterile Brassica napus L. (oilseed rape) and five weedy relatives, including Brassica juncea (L.) Czern, B. nigra (L.) Koch, B. rapa L., Hirschfeldia incana (L.) Lagrèze-Fossat and Raphanus raphanistrum L. The hybrid seeds formed between B. napus and B. rapa varied in size, while all the hybrid seeds formed with the other species were small. In a direct-seeded field experiment, small seeds of both parents and hybrids had a lower frequency of emergence and a lower seedling survival rate than large seeds, and resulted in later flowering with less biomass. However, no difference was recorded in a transplant experiment, indicating that growth in the juvenile period was sensitive to the small seed class in field conditions only. The optimum environmental conditions in the greenhouse probably homogenized the developmental differences observed at the early stage, and thus reduced the variation during subsequent growth in the field. This point has not been, but should be, considered in risk assessment of transgenic plants. The lower seedling establishment of small-seeded hybrids could hamper further gene flow.
Spatially isolating genetically modified (GM) maize fields from non-GM maize
fields is a robust on-farm measure to keep the adventitious presence of GM
material in the harvest of neighboring fields due to cross-fertilizations
below the European labeling threshold of 0.9%. However, the
implementation of mandatory and rigid isolation perimeters can affect the
farmers' freedom of choice to grow GM maize on their fields if neighboring
farmers do not concur with their respective cropping intentions and crop
plans. To minimize the presence of non-GM maize within isolation perimeters
implemented around GM maize fields, a method was developed for optimally
allocating GM maize to a particular set of fields. Using a Geographic
Information System dataset and Monte Carlo analyses, three scenarios were
tested in a maize cultivation area with a low maize share in Flanders
(Belgium). It was assumed that some farmers would act in collaboration by
sharing the allocation of all their arable land for the cultivation of GM
maize. From the large number of possible allocations of GM maize to any
field of the shared pool of arable land, the best field combinations were
selected. Compared to a random allocation of GM maize, the best field
combinations made it possible to reduce spatial co-existence problems, since
at least two times less non-GM maize fields and their corresponding farmers
occurred within the implemented isolation perimeters. In the selected field
sets, the mean field size was always larger than the mean field size of the
common pool of arable land. These preliminary data confirm that the optimal
allocation of GM maize over the landscape might theoretically be a valuable
option to facilitate the implementation of rigid isolation perimeters
imposed by law.
A 1999 United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) policy on organic certification excluded the use of genetically modified (GM) crops. The decision remains controversial because it provokes debate over the fundamental meaning of organic agriculture. Some scholars, farmers and activists claim that organic agriculture represents a value orientation that is opposed to trends in industrial agriculture, of which GM crops are the latest product. Because organic farmers are a significant constituency in this debate, we examined their values and practices related to marketing, environment and GM crops. From a survey of 1181 Washington State farmers, we created a sub-sample of 598 crop farmers (fruits, vegetables and grains), of which 109 described themselves as organic (certified organic, moving towards organic certification and non-certified organic), and we analyzed organic and conventional farmer responses to a number of issues to discern comparative commitment to self-seeking economic interests. Results reveal differences among conventional and organic farmers on GM crops and several marketing and environmental values and practices, suggesting that there is some validity to portraying organic agriculture as an alternative vision to industrial agriculture.
Recapitulating how genetic modification technology and its agro-food
products aroused strong societal opposition in the European Union, this
paper demonstrates how this opposition contributed to shape the European
regulatory frame on GM crops. More specifically, it describes how this
opposition contributed to a de facto moratorium on the commercialization of new GM
crop events in the end of the nineties. From this period onwards, the
regulatory frame has been continuously revised in order to slow down further
erosion of public and market confidence. Various scientific and technical
reforms were made to meet societal concerns relating to the safety of GM
crops. In this context, the precautionary principle, environmental
post-market monitoring and traceability were adopted as ways to cope with
scientific uncertainties. Labeling, traceability, co-existence and public
information were installed in an attempt to meet the general public request
for more information about GM agro-food products, and the specific demand to
respect the consumers' and farmers' freedom of choice. Despite these
efforts, today, the explicit role of public participation and/or ethical
consultation during authorization procedures is at best minimal. Moreover,
no legal room was created to progress to an integral sustainability
evaluation during market procedures. It remains to be seen whether the
recent policy shift towards greater transparency about value judgments,
plural viewpoints and scientific uncertainties will be one step forward in
integrating ethical concerns more explicitly in risk analysis. As such, the
regulatory frame stands open for further interpretation, reflecting in
various degrees a continued interplay with societal concerns relating to GM
agro-food products. In this regard, both societal concerns and diversely
interpreted regulatory criteria can be inferred as signaling a request –
and even a quest – to render more explicit the broader-than-scientific
dimension of the actual risk analysis.
We examine the characteristics and limitations of the existing system of tort liability
for addressing potential environmental damages from GM crops and consider whether
environmental bonding could be used to address these risks. We find that in the case of
GM crops, a bonding mechanism would complement some of the strengths of tort liability.
Specifically, the bonding mechanism provides some protection against bankruptcy, and also
shifts the burden of risk toward life science companies that develop the technology.
These factors could encourage additional early research by life science firms. However,
a bonding mechanism adds to the regulatory apparatus, and would likely increase
administrative costs, over tort liability, for public and private parties. Nevertheless,
an attractive possibility is that the cumulative outcomes of bonding, e.g., shifting
the risk burden, providing a measure of bankruptcy protection, and introducing an
additional regulatory component, would mitigate some of the political and social
objections to the environmental release of GM crops.
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