Tag Archive: Technologies.

Florida-Alabama Irrigation Technologies Field Day – September 5

Florida-Alabama Irrigation Technologies Field Day – September 5

Pivot irrigation watering fields. UF/IFAS Photo: Josh Wickham

Join us on September 5, 2017 at Sam and Scott Walker’s Farm (1950 Hwy 99 Walnut Hill, FL 32568) to learn more about new technologies for soil moisture sensing.  The short field day will start at 8:00 am central.

Topics will include Testing the Sentek Soil Moisture Probe on-Farm, Comparing soil moisture sensors, and the FDACS BMP Program. If you need more information or directions, contact Libbie Johnson (850) 475-5230, libbiej@ufl.edu or Kimberly Wilkins, (251) 937-7176, wilkikj@aces.edu.

Pivot irrigation. UF/IFAS Photo: Josh Wickham

 

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Author: Libbie Johnson – libbiej@ufl.edu

Agriculture agent at UF IFAS Escambia County Extension.
http://escambia.ifas.ufl.edu/

Libbie Johnson

Permanent link to this article: http://franklin.ifas.ufl.edu/newsletters/2017/08/25/florida-alabama-irrigation-technologies-field-day-september-5/

Genetically Modified (GM) Crops: Straight Talk on Complex, Often Controversial Technologies.

The use of genetics to create plant varieties with desirable traits is not a new agricultural procedure, however, the technologies available to scientists today are leaps and bounds beyond traditional plant breeding practices, and the use and safety of today's genetically modified crops is not without its own set of uncertainties and debate.

The use of genetics to create plant varieties with desirable traits is not a new agricultural procedure, however, the technologies available to scientists today are leaps and bounds beyond traditional plant breeding practices, and the use and safety of today’s genetically modified (GM) crops is not without its own set of uncertainties and debate.

The following article is intended to provide the reader with research-based publications on the oftentimes controversial topic of genetically modified plants.  From these publications and the references cited within them, it is hoped the reader will be empowered to formulate his or her own educated views on the use genetically modified crops.

As harvest begins in the Florida panhandle, those bushels of golden corn, sundried peanuts, and indispensable bales of cotton will become a common site along our country roads.  It is easy to take these products of modern agriculture for granted, but have you ever paused to think about how this harvest is possible today? 

Contemporary harvests are products of thousands of years of humankind’s instinctive search for and selection of the “best” plant or animal from fields of many.  The “best of the best” were carefully cultivated, bred, and nurtured to become the crops and domesticated livestock we know today.  Take for example corn; its ancestor (a plant called Teosinte) looks nothing like the tall abundant plants common today.  Varieties of modern corn are actually products of careful selection of desirable traits and plant breeding over many, many years. 

Through traditional plant breeding techniques, agronomists take advantage of the inherent genetic variability of plants to create varieties with desirable characteristics.  In fact, the renowned scientist Gregor Johann Mendel (July 20, 1822 – January 6, 1884) specialized in the hereditary characteristics and hybridization of garden peas.  It was as a result of these experiments, that Gregor Mendel became the founder of the science of modern Genetics. 

The use of traditional genetic principles to develop or engineer new plant varieties with desirable traits such as drought tolerance, disease resistance or yield increase, is not a new agricultural procedure, however, the techniques and capabilities available to scientists today are leaps and bounds beyond traditional plant breeding practices.  Chromosome mapping, gene splicing, transgenic technologies, etc. are just a few of the highly specialized tools available to modern plant breeders who develop genetically modified crops.  

As is true of many new technologies, the use and safety of genetically modified (GM) crops is not without its own set of uncertainties and debate. 

Proponents of GM crops cite the following benefits of this technology:

  • Increased pest and disease resistance resulting in healthier plants
  • Increased plant tolerance to drought, salinity and temperature extremes
  • Increased crop yields due to healthier, more tolerant crops.
  • Reduction of herbicide and insecticide use
  • Reduced crop production costs (use of less fuel, pesticides, etc) and greater consumer savings
  • Creation of more nutritious plants, for example “Golden Rice” which has high amounts of vitamin A and iron.
  • Increased adoption of soil saving, conservation practices of no-till or limited-till weed management.
  • Greater potential for sustainable food production on a global scale to feed the predicted world population of 9 billion people by 2050.

Opponents of GM crops cite the following risks of this technology:

  • Potential for introduction of allergens and toxins into foods that normally would not contain that allergen or toxin.
  • Accidental contamination between genetically modified and related non-genetically modified and organic crops
  • Adverse changes to the nutrient content of a crop
  • Creation of herbicide resistant “super” weeds due to hybridization with related GM resistant crop plants
  • Creation of insecticide resistant pests due to inadvertent selection of insects that are unaffected by the GM crops
  • Ecosystem alterations such as loss of biodiversity due to dominance by and spread of resistant weeds and insects
  • Potentially greater reliance on chemicals to combat resistant weeds and insects
  • Less reliance on a variety of proven Integrated Pest Management practices
  • Greater influence by profit-motivated factors rather than science-based factors

An objectively educated public is important for the future of these technologies. Below are brief excerpts from and links to research-based publications from the University of Florida, other Extension Land Grant Universities, and national and international organizations presenting both sides of this complex topic.  From studying the entirety of these publications and the references cited within them, it is hoped the reader will be empowered to formulate his or her own educated views about the use and future of genetically modified crops.  

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University of Florida: Genetically Modified Food

Industry has argued that we need GM foods because they will reduce production costs by reducing the need for additional chemicals (pesticides and fertilizers) and mechanical inputs. Theoretically, the savings could, in turn, be passed on to the consumer.….. The potential for GM foods to cause allergic reactions is the most obvious health concern associated with these products. Specific proteins in milk, eggs, wheat, fish, tree nuts, peanuts, soybeans, and shellfish cause over 90% of food allergies. If a protein from one of these food types were to be incorporated into a food that normally would not have this protein, people who are allergic to these proteins could unknowingly consume such a food and suffer allergic reactions.

University of Florida: A Synopsis of US Consumer Perception of Genetically Modified (Biotech) Crops

Biotechnology has now emerged as one of the most innovative technologies of modern times; this new technology is capable of improving a range of crops, including fruits, vegetables, and plantation crops, with greater precision while dealing with global challenges such as climate change. With more than 30 commercial GM crops grown on almost 160 million hectares in 29 countries and the expectation that there will be around 120 GM crops by 2015, it is clear that agro-biotechnology is growing.

Union of Concerned Scientists: Risks of Genetic Engineering

Technologies usually involve risks, and sometimes those risks turn out to be unexpected ones. DDT, for example, turned out to accumulate in fish and thin the shells of fish-eating birds like eagles and ospreys. And chlorofluorocarbons turned out to float into the upper atmosphere and destroy ozone, a chemical that shields the earth from dangerous radiation.  What harmful effects might turn out to be associated with the use of genetically engineered (GE) organisms? This is not a simple question. Answering it requires that we understand complex biological and ecological systems.

University of California – Davis: Safety of Genetically Engineered Food

Perspective:  While genetic engineering of foods continues to generate concern and controversy for some consumers, evidence to date has not indicated that any foods developed for human consumption using genetic engineering techniques pose risks greater than foods produced using traditional methods.  At the same time, we need to further develop and maintain scientifically based regulatory programs.  Such programs must be able to flexibly and fairly assess and manage the potential risks from the evolving technology, as well as evaluate these potential risks, on a case-by-case basis.

Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations, Food safety and quality: Biotechnology (GM food)

The application of modern biotechnology to food and food production (GM food) presents new opportunities and potential benefits, as well as challenges in ensuring consumer protection. Recent developments have posed concerns, both real and perceived, about the safety of these technologies.  Member Countries, especially developing ones, look to FAO to provide sound and unbiased advice on the safety of GM food, and AGNS, in collaboration with international bodies such as Codex, has been involved in a wide range of biotechnology related issues, including:

  • Science-based safety evaluation and risk assessment systems to objectively determine the benefits and risks of GM food
  • Recommendations for the labeling of foods obtained through biotechnology
  • Assessing nutritional aspects of food derived from modern biotechnology
  • Detection of protein and/or DNA in GM food

GM crops: global socio-economic and environmental impacts 1996-2011

USDA Economic Research Service: Adoption of Genetically Engineered Crops in the U.S.

Purdue University: Purdue News July 2000: Understand GMO crops? Test yourself with this quiz

Purdue University: Purdue News Oct. 2000: Quiz yourself about foods made from genetically modified crops

U. S Food and Drug Administration: Foods Derived from Genetically Engineered Plants

 

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Author: Judy Ludlow – judy.ludlow@ufl.edu

Judy Ludlow is the Agriculture and Natural Resource Agent in Calhoun County, Florida

Judy Ludlow

Permanent link to this article: http://franklin.ifas.ufl.edu/newsletters/2013/09/27/genetically-modified-gm-crops-straight-talk-on-complex-often-controversial-technologies/