Insect and Disease Resistance
One of the most important benefits of GMOs is their potential for adding to the healthiness and natural resistances of organisms. GMOs can potentially be created that have greater resistance to insect infestation and plant diseases. For instance, a certain strain of corn might produce a large amount of food tonnage, but be susceptible to insects, while another might repel the insects but produce a low amount of raw food tonnage. If the insect resistance of the lower yield plant were combined with the higher yield plant, a new GMO could be made that provides a large amount of food and resistance to insects. Another benefit of increased ...view middle of the document...
Having plants that are better able to resist various maladies can increase crop yields while reducing the amount of money spent on efforts to protect the plants. According to Monsanto.com, farmers made an additional $10 billion in 2007 from planting GMOs, which is due to increased yields and reduced production costs.
Potential negative effects on the environment
* Genes can end up in unexpected places: Through "gene escape" they can pass on to other members of the same species and perhaps other species. Genes introduced in GMOs are no exception, and interactions might occur at gene, cell, plant and ecosystem level. Problems could result if, for example, herbicide-resistance genes got into weeds. So far, research on this is inconclusive, with scientists divided - often bitterly. But there is scientific consensus that once widely released, recalling transgenes or foreign DNA sequences, whose safety is still subject to scientific debate, will not be feasible.
* Genes can mutate with harmful effect: It is not yet known whether artificial insertion of genes could destabilize an organism, encouraging mutations, or whether the inserted gene itself will keep stable in the plant over generations. There is no conclusive data on this issue.
* "Sleeper" genes could be accidentally switched on and active genes could become "silent": Organisms contain genes that are activated under certain conditions -- for example, under attack from pathogens or severe weather. When a new gene is inserted, a "promoter" gene is also inserted to switch it on. This could activate a "sleeper" gene in inappropriate circumstances. This is especially relevant in long-lived organisms - such as trees. Sometimes the expression of genes is even "silenced" as a result of unknown interactions with the inserted gene.
* Interaction with wild and native populations: GMOs could compete or breed with wild species. Farmed fish, in particular, may do this. GM crops could pose a threat to crop biodiversity, especially if grown in areas that are centres of origin of that crop. In addition, GM crops could compete with and substitute traditional farmers' varieties and wild relatives that have been bred, or evolved, to cope with local stresses. For example, local varieties in Latin America permitted the recovery from the catastrophic potato blight in Ireland in the 1840s. Today such plants often help improve climate tolerance and disease resistance. If genetically modified crop varieties substitute them, they could be lost, but the same applies to improved varieties developed by conventional breeding methods.
* Impact on birds, insects and soil biota: Potential risks to non-target species, such as birds, pollinators and micro-organisms, is another important issue. Nobody quite knows the impact of horizontal flow of GM pollen to bees' gut or of novel gene sequences in plants to fungi and soil and rumen bacteria. Besides, it is feared that widespread use...