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Are Genetically Modified Crops a Threat to Wildlife?

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March 26, 2013
Are Genetically Modified Crops a Threat to Wildlife? - 14

First we had delayed-ripening tomatoes, then nutritionally enhanced canola oil, then Roundup-Ready soybeans and non-allergenic milk.

It’s hard to eat in America without swallowing a genetically modified bite, and with each new test-tube food comes the question: Are these products safe to eat? Researchers and regulators are spending time and money trying to answer that question, but one food group is going virtually unstudied: America’s free-ranging wildlife, specifically whitetail deer.

There may be no other wild animal in the nation that eats so much genetically modified food (also known as genetically modified organisms, or GMOs) as our whitetails.

According to Dr. Peter Raven, professor emeritus at the Missouri Botanical Garden, about 85 percent of all corn and soybeans in America are genetically modified in some manner. These crops make up a significant portion of the diet of most farmland deer, but Raven maintains that if genetically modified crops affected wildlife, then the resulting changes would be evident by now.

“Deer and turkeys eat genetically modified crops all the time,” Raven says. “So far we’ve seen no evidence that changing the DNA of a plant has any effect on wildlife.”

TEST-TUBE FOODS
The process of genetically engineering crops requires the insertion of new DNA into the plant. This is accomplished by using restriction enzymes, which act as DNA scissors, to cut specific sections of DNA from other organisms and then place that genetic information into crop plants with the aid of ligase, which acts as a glue for genetic material. Once the new DNA is spliced into the plant’s existing DNA, the crop will begin creating proteins based upon instructions contained within the new strand of DNA. These modifications allow farmers to grow high-yield crops that are drought- and insect-resistant, fruit that ripens in buyers’ homes, and fish with healthy oils.

The suggestion that fiddling with the genetic blueprint of a plant could harm the wild animals that eat it was the basis for the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service’s decision to ban GMOs on national wildlife refuges in the Northeast.

Environmental groups claim that genetically engineered crops will alter the ecosystem and that the long-term effects of GM crops are not yet known.

Although Raven believes that genetically modified crops don’t present a clear threat to wildlife, other biologists feel it’s premature to say that there will be no side effects from genetically altered plants.

“Not to be alarmist,” says Dr. Richard Durtsche, a biologist at Northern Kentucky University, “but GM plants can pose a concern for natural ecosystems, especially in the long term, in that there is no way to know what impact they may have on the environment once established. Their modified traits give them a selective advantage, whether it is to prevent weed growth, increase yield, or prevent predation by herbivores.”

Durtsche believes that the effects of genetically engineered crops have yet to be seen, and once these species are established in the habitat, there is no way to effectively control them.

But Raven also points out that for about the last 15 years, a large portion of the world’s human population has eaten genetically modified crops without any confirmed cases of diseases caused by the altered DNA.

“There are literally hundreds of millions of people eating genetically modified crops every day, and there haven’t been any measurable effects on human health.”

Environmental groups remain in sharp opposition to the introduction of genetically modified organisms into wildlife areas, but there currently isn’t concrete statistical data to show that these crops are dangerous to wildlife. Litigation continues, however, and environmental groups are focused on eliminating the planting of genetically engineered crops on National Wildlife Refuges nationwide.

Photo: Lance Krueger

Comments (14)

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from Judy M wrote 21 weeks 8 hours ago

Very interesting discussion but it hasn't yet answered my question. I have read studies (sorry I don't have the references) that discuss the effects of differently modified crops.I am most interested in Bt corn. The studies I have read have used rats and the rats developed tumors. I have also read articles regarding empirical evidence of domestic herd failure because Bt corn can cause the animals to be sterile. I purchase corn at Southern States to feed the deer near my home and I am wondering what I am doing to/for them. Can anyone help?

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from schmakenzie wrote 1 year 16 weeks ago

6phunter, "crop productivity is not about to change whether there is any affect on wildlife" - You are 100% correct. Monoculture will not change even though it damages the land, water, plants, air and animals. It is money driven, dressed up as "feed the children issue". We need the corn and beans to feed the world, although we have enough to turn a percentage into ethanol, etc...

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from 6phunter wrote 1 year 16 weeks ago

lol my point is crop productivity is not about to change whether there is any affect on wildlife,unless we can persuade deer to browse only on organic gardens.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from schmakenzie wrote 1 year 16 weeks ago

6phunter, Are you sure we are not using the masses of people to feed monsanto? Perspective is huge.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from 6phunter wrote 1 year 16 weeks ago

IN todays world a lot of emphasis is growing larger crop quanities to feed the masses of people,why would wildlife have a higher priority over people ? I see no ill affects upon people why would whitetails be any different ?

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from schmakenzie wrote 1 year 17 weeks ago

Ryan, you can read the facts below. The title is "Are Genetically Modified Crops a Threat to Wildlife?" I have two main points. (1) I think monoculture in general is a threat to wildlife. Please explain from an environmental standpoint how monoculture helps wildlife. (2) If GMO's are without a doubt safe, why was this article written?, why have countries made it illegal? why are there websites to educate? We the people are paying for farm "subsidies/welfare" and should be given answers or the truth.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Ryan Langemeier wrote 1 year 17 weeks ago

sorry comment said it didn't go through so I was going to try and post it in parts.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Ryan Langemeier wrote 1 year 17 weeks ago

This is kind of wordy but it pisses me off when bash GMOS and don't understand them.
There is a complete lack of understanding about GMOS on here in the comments and in the world in general. krwheeler your points are awfu, haven't you noticed that many states are trying to cut back the deer population because there are to many. When population keeps going up if course desease is going to go up. Its how nature works. Sensativities are more than likely cause by peoples diets today, us eating more corn and soybeans, and increased diagnosis.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Ryan Langemeier wrote 1 year 17 weeks ago

There is a complete lack of understanding about GMOS on here in the comments and in the world in general. krwheeler your points are awfu, haven't you noticed that many states are trieing to cut back the deer population because there are to many. When population keeps going up if course desease is going to go up. Its how nature works. Sensativities are more than likely cause by peoples diets today, us eating more corn and soybeans, and increased diagnosis.
scmackenzie you also need to understand somethings. Use of synthenthetic fertalizer use would go way up because of decreased efficiancy in the crops, as well as more run off from the extra plowing and disking that would occur. Synthetic fertalizers don'titrogen is nitrogen no matter how it is created, by a plant or chemically. The chemical make up is still the exact same. GMOS allow us to use less pesticides. They do not create a pesticide, and if correctly used will not cause pests to become resistant. It is now reccomended and common practice to plant non pest resistant corn in a field with pest resistant corn, or refuge, so that does not happen. I don't have the slightest ideas how you think that GMOS cause erosion. They actually allow us to greatly reduce it. With conventional crops you have to plow and disk the field to keep the weeds down, which is not nearly as effective as spraying. GMOs are basically the only reason for notilling being possible. With out notill we would have many times the ersoion we do now.
Finally gentically modifying things has been going on for thousands of years, it just called selective breeding which is less effective takes way more money and takes way longer.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from schmakenzie wrote 1 year 17 weeks ago

If it is safe, why is it ilegal in these places: Algeria, Egypt,Sri Lanka,Thailand,China,Japan,Philippines,Norway, Austria,Germany,the United Kingdom,Spain,Italy,Greece, France,Luxembourg,Portugal,Saudi Arabia,Brazil and Paraguay?

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Kevin R. Wheeler wrote 1 year 17 weeks ago

So deer numbers are declining, and the wolves can't be held wholly responsible..... Don't I recall seeing the numbers for CWD going up? Some GMOs can cause issues with reducing immunities.

People have been eating this stuff for a while with "no problems"? People are having digestive issues increasingly over the past ten years. Sensitivities to corn and soy, two crops most heavily used for GMOs, are through the roof. Wheat sensitivities are on the rise and there is an increase in the use of GMO wheat.

Brad, you had better check your facts before drinking any more of that kool-aid.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from schmakenzie wrote 1 year 17 weeks ago

"but do they out weigh the positives" - sorry screwed up, should say "negatives".

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from schmakenzie wrote 1 year 17 weeks ago

Very interesting topic. Venision use to be organic, however in most places in the midwest the meat that you gather while hunting now can not be labled organic, because of your very topic. I feel maybe there is not enough data to calculate the effects of what g.m. foods are doing to us and the wildlife. We however understand the effects of monoculture as a whole and we embrace it as a society which I find facinating. Below is just scratching the surface and the web is littered with facts here and there, but as a whole I think most of the statements are rather factual.

Monoculture = Synthetic Fertilizers + Pesticides + Reduced Habitat + Soil Erosion.

Synthetic Fertilizers = Cause Eutrophication + Alter the composition of soil and make it infertile + Accumulate in our food.

Pesticides = Leads to development of pesticide-resistance in different pests + Endosulphan, Linden, Malathion, Chloropyriphos, and many others are highly poisonous to aquatic organisms + Aldrin, Di aldrin, Endrine etc. are a group of highly toxic chemical pesticides that join the food chain.

Reduced Habitat = Lack of Biodeversity + Chinas Food Pantry + Food stamps for farmers (subsidies)

Soil Erosion = We have been losing about 7 million hectares of useful cropland every year due to soil erosion as per the reports of the U N and FAO (1980).

Sure there are positives to monoculture, but do they out weigh the positives? From a world hunger perspective?, environmental perspective? Financial perspective?

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from huntfishtrap wrote 1 year 17 weeks ago

I'm not an expert on this issue, but the ones that have genetically engineered pesticide traits would be my biggest concern. Because it's been proven that pesticides can cause "collateral damage" to non-target species.

0 Good Comment? | | Report

Post a Comment (200 characters or less)

from 6phunter wrote 1 year 16 weeks ago

IN todays world a lot of emphasis is growing larger crop quanities to feed the masses of people,why would wildlife have a higher priority over people ? I see no ill affects upon people why would whitetails be any different ?

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from 6phunter wrote 1 year 16 weeks ago

lol my point is crop productivity is not about to change whether there is any affect on wildlife,unless we can persuade deer to browse only on organic gardens.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from schmakenzie wrote 1 year 16 weeks ago

6phunter, "crop productivity is not about to change whether there is any affect on wildlife" - You are 100% correct. Monoculture will not change even though it damages the land, water, plants, air and animals. It is money driven, dressed up as "feed the children issue". We need the corn and beans to feed the world, although we have enough to turn a percentage into ethanol, etc...

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from huntfishtrap wrote 1 year 17 weeks ago

I'm not an expert on this issue, but the ones that have genetically engineered pesticide traits would be my biggest concern. Because it's been proven that pesticides can cause "collateral damage" to non-target species.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from schmakenzie wrote 1 year 17 weeks ago

Very interesting topic. Venision use to be organic, however in most places in the midwest the meat that you gather while hunting now can not be labled organic, because of your very topic. I feel maybe there is not enough data to calculate the effects of what g.m. foods are doing to us and the wildlife. We however understand the effects of monoculture as a whole and we embrace it as a society which I find facinating. Below is just scratching the surface and the web is littered with facts here and there, but as a whole I think most of the statements are rather factual.

Monoculture = Synthetic Fertilizers + Pesticides + Reduced Habitat + Soil Erosion.

Synthetic Fertilizers = Cause Eutrophication + Alter the composition of soil and make it infertile + Accumulate in our food.

Pesticides = Leads to development of pesticide-resistance in different pests + Endosulphan, Linden, Malathion, Chloropyriphos, and many others are highly poisonous to aquatic organisms + Aldrin, Di aldrin, Endrine etc. are a group of highly toxic chemical pesticides that join the food chain.

Reduced Habitat = Lack of Biodeversity + Chinas Food Pantry + Food stamps for farmers (subsidies)

Soil Erosion = We have been losing about 7 million hectares of useful cropland every year due to soil erosion as per the reports of the U N and FAO (1980).

Sure there are positives to monoculture, but do they out weigh the positives? From a world hunger perspective?, environmental perspective? Financial perspective?

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from schmakenzie wrote 1 year 17 weeks ago

"but do they out weigh the positives" - sorry screwed up, should say "negatives".

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Kevin R. Wheeler wrote 1 year 17 weeks ago

So deer numbers are declining, and the wolves can't be held wholly responsible..... Don't I recall seeing the numbers for CWD going up? Some GMOs can cause issues with reducing immunities.

People have been eating this stuff for a while with "no problems"? People are having digestive issues increasingly over the past ten years. Sensitivities to corn and soy, two crops most heavily used for GMOs, are through the roof. Wheat sensitivities are on the rise and there is an increase in the use of GMO wheat.

Brad, you had better check your facts before drinking any more of that kool-aid.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from schmakenzie wrote 1 year 17 weeks ago

If it is safe, why is it ilegal in these places: Algeria, Egypt,Sri Lanka,Thailand,China,Japan,Philippines,Norway, Austria,Germany,the United Kingdom,Spain,Italy,Greece, France,Luxembourg,Portugal,Saudi Arabia,Brazil and Paraguay?

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Ryan Langemeier wrote 1 year 17 weeks ago

There is a complete lack of understanding about GMOS on here in the comments and in the world in general. krwheeler your points are awfu, haven't you noticed that many states are trieing to cut back the deer population because there are to many. When population keeps going up if course desease is going to go up. Its how nature works. Sensativities are more than likely cause by peoples diets today, us eating more corn and soybeans, and increased diagnosis.
scmackenzie you also need to understand somethings. Use of synthenthetic fertalizer use would go way up because of decreased efficiancy in the crops, as well as more run off from the extra plowing and disking that would occur. Synthetic fertalizers don'titrogen is nitrogen no matter how it is created, by a plant or chemically. The chemical make up is still the exact same. GMOS allow us to use less pesticides. They do not create a pesticide, and if correctly used will not cause pests to become resistant. It is now reccomended and common practice to plant non pest resistant corn in a field with pest resistant corn, or refuge, so that does not happen. I don't have the slightest ideas how you think that GMOS cause erosion. They actually allow us to greatly reduce it. With conventional crops you have to plow and disk the field to keep the weeds down, which is not nearly as effective as spraying. GMOs are basically the only reason for notilling being possible. With out notill we would have many times the ersoion we do now.
Finally gentically modifying things has been going on for thousands of years, it just called selective breeding which is less effective takes way more money and takes way longer.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Ryan Langemeier wrote 1 year 17 weeks ago

This is kind of wordy but it pisses me off when bash GMOS and don't understand them.
There is a complete lack of understanding about GMOS on here in the comments and in the world in general. krwheeler your points are awfu, haven't you noticed that many states are trying to cut back the deer population because there are to many. When population keeps going up if course desease is going to go up. Its how nature works. Sensativities are more than likely cause by peoples diets today, us eating more corn and soybeans, and increased diagnosis.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Ryan Langemeier wrote 1 year 17 weeks ago

sorry comment said it didn't go through so I was going to try and post it in parts.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from schmakenzie wrote 1 year 17 weeks ago

Ryan, you can read the facts below. The title is "Are Genetically Modified Crops a Threat to Wildlife?" I have two main points. (1) I think monoculture in general is a threat to wildlife. Please explain from an environmental standpoint how monoculture helps wildlife. (2) If GMO's are without a doubt safe, why was this article written?, why have countries made it illegal? why are there websites to educate? We the people are paying for farm "subsidies/welfare" and should be given answers or the truth.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from schmakenzie wrote 1 year 16 weeks ago

6phunter, Are you sure we are not using the masses of people to feed monsanto? Perspective is huge.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Judy M wrote 21 weeks 8 hours ago

Very interesting discussion but it hasn't yet answered my question. I have read studies (sorry I don't have the references) that discuss the effects of differently modified crops.I am most interested in Bt corn. The studies I have read have used rats and the rats developed tumors. I have also read articles regarding empirical evidence of domestic herd failure because Bt corn can cause the animals to be sterile. I purchase corn at Southern States to feed the deer near my home and I am wondering what I am doing to/for them. Can anyone help?

0 Good Comment? | | Report

Post a Comment (200 characters or less)