GMOs refer to organisms whose genetic makeup has been altered or modified by use of recombinant DNA technology. It involves combining gene of a desired trait from different sources to form a DNA molecule which is then incorporated into the DNA of the organism to form a modified or a new organism. There are numerous GMO products which are currently available, this include and not limited to medicine, vaccines, feeds, fibers, food and food ingredients. The subject of GMOs remains controversial because of their potential to reduce biodiversity and the fact that since it involves modification of an organism’s genome the outcomes may be very unpredictable and so would be the potential to cause harm. This paper reviews an article on the analysis of benefits and the risks of BT maize for policymakers considering adoption of BT maize by Felicia Wu published in the International Journal of Technology and Globalization. This article was chosen on the basis of the strength of its content and the fact that it is recent and published in a reputable Journal.
2.0 Summary of the article
The article evaluates vital factors that policy makers should consider when deciding to adopt BT maize planting and commercialization. The author examines the market, health and environmental benefits as well as risks of BT Maize and the regulatory framework affecting BT trade. BT maize is genetically engineered to produce a protein toxin that kills the lavi of Lepidoptera insect pests. BT maize is one of the oldest genetically modified organisms (GMOs) and is the most widely grown GMO plant. It contains CRY 1 Ab from a soil bacterium called Bacillus Thurigiensis (BT) which codes for the protective protein. The protein binds to the gut of Lepidoptera insects and causes the insects to starve to death and does not affect vertebrates and insects from other orders[ CITATION Fel06 \l 2057 ].
3.0 Benefits/Pros of the BT Maize
According to Felicia Wu (2006) BT maize has several benefits including reduced pesticide use, reduced mycotoxin levels and increased yields. These benefits are particularly important in developing countries where maize is the staple food of humans and animals and mycotoxins and pests are not effectively managed[ CITATION Fel06 \l 2057 ]. Another source indicates BT maize has higher levels of lignin which gives the cells their rigidity, strength and impermeability to water[ CITATION Dee01 \l 2057 ]. This high lignin quantity makes the maize resistant to the attack by the said insect pests and slows down microbial degradation. The slow degradation enables the organic matter from the BT corn to remain longer in the soil. Therefore as far as the benefits of BT corn goes most sources agree that BT maize is beneficial in the ways mentioned above. On a general view point the proponents of GMOs argue on the basis of ensuring food security, development of novel vaccines, pharmaceuticals and other products such as bifuels.
4.0 Risks of BT corn
Adoption of BT maize should be guided by the benefit vs. risk analysis. As such BT maize poses several risks to the environment, humans and trade. The most known potential risks associated with BT maize include horizontal transfer of the genes to maize not meant to be genetically modified or weeds that belong to the family of maize; allergic reactions to the BT proteins; possible negative effects on non target species; trade hindrances due to precautionary regulations against GMOs; development of resistant insects among many others[ CITATION Fel06 \l 2057 ]. Another source indicates that the high lignin content in BT maize makes it difficult to digest by herbivores[ CITATION Dee01 \l 2057 ]. Once again most sources agree on these risks of BT maize and that there is need to assess the environmental risks of BT maize further. The anti-GMO activists argue on the basis of the unpredictable outcomes of GMOs, the potential to cause health problems and environmental hazards.
Saxena, D., & Stotzky, G. (2001). Bt corn has a higher lignin content than non-Bt corn. American Journal of Botany. , 1704-1706.
Wu, F. (2006). An analysis of Bt corn’s benefits and risks for national and regional policymakers considering Bt corn adoption. Int. J. Technology and Globalisation , 115-136.