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Unintended Consequences

Just a quick update along the same lines as the last article. There are sometimes unintended consequences of introducing genetically modified foods that may not surface until it is too late. Researchers from the University of Notre Dame have found that streams throughout the Midwest are receiving transgenic material from corn crops even six months after harvest.

A species of corn was genetically modified to produce its own insecticide. A ” delta endotoxin from the bacterium Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt). Bt endotoxins deter crop pests, such as the European corn borer.” Transgenic material from the leaves, pollen and cobs enters nearby streams and the endotoxin is transmitted downstream.

“We found that corn crop byproducts were common in agricultural streams and that 86 percent of sites contained corn leaves, cobs, husks and/or stalks in the active stream channel,”

“GIS analyses found that 91 percent of the more than 200,000 kilometers of streams and rivers in Indiana, Iowa and Illinois are located within 500 meters of a corn field, suggesting that corn crop byproducts and any associated insecticidal proteins may enter streams across the corn belt states…”

No negative consequences were noted by the study, but it just goes to show that sometimes we don’t really know the aftereffects of genetic modification of our food stuffs. Just because it seems like a good idea at the time, we need to remember that genetic changes, as well as immediate effects of those changes can affect the environment in ways that we have not planned for.

Previous research has overlooked the potential for crop byproducts from transgenic corn to enter and be dispersed by headwater streams.

Sometimes the environment may have to pay for things that give you more than you pay for.


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