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Scaroni-Fisher, Mabel Marta
A comparative risk assessment of chemical genetic engineering, and organic approaches to pest management.

Order No.9933981

As approximately 50% of the world's food supply is destroyed each year by pests while the human population continues to expand rapidly, agricultural pest management is a global, serious problem. Chemical pesticides, the principal approach to managing pests, has been much analyzed, but relatively little attention has given to organic and genetic engineering methods. The purpose of this study was to conduct a comparative risk assessment of these three approaches, first generally and then in terms of a case study on Roundup Ready soybeans, a genetically modified crop.

The main risk with chemical pesticides is the development of pest resistance. Consequently, a greater percentage of the world's crops are consumed by pests today than 50 years ago despite a thirty-fold increase in the use of chemicals. When the environmental and health problems of this approach are also considered, it is clear that chemicals not only carry unacceptable risks, they are unsustainable. For this reason the world will likely shift to one of the other two approaches.

The principal general risks of genetic engineering are escape of transgenes into the environment, development of pest resistance, harmful effects on non-target species, continued dependence on chemicals, toxic and allergenic health effects, and increase in antibiotic resistance. The risks of Roundup Ready soybeans in particular are increased use of Roundup, which has been shown to be acutely toxic to a significant number of organisms in the environment and to be potentially carcinogenic to agricultural workers and possibly consumers. Available evidence indicates that all these risks are real and potent. However, because no tests have been conducted to assess any of these risks for the long term, it is recommended that genetically engineered crops should not be commercialized until they are proven safe beyond a reasonable doubt.

The principal risk of the organic approach is the introduction of alien species for biological control, which can also result in effects on non-target species. However, if alien species are avoided, organic agriculture offers the least risk for managing pests effectively while maintaining or even increasing food production without endangering human health or the environment. Source: DAI, 60, no. 06B (1999): p. 2473

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