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Home >> Issues >> Biodiversity-based Ecological Agriculture >> Genetic Engineering

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Genetic Engineering

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Genetic Engineering (GE) is the physical alteration or modification or the genetic information of an organism, using the tools of modern biotechnologies. In particular, it refers to the introduction, elimination or re-arrangement of specific genes or DNA sequences. For instance, GE Rice has been genetically engineered with genes from many other species including bacteria, virus, garlic, daffodil, insects and even humans.

Risks and implications arising from GE (including GE rice):

1) health and food safety issues such as allergenicity, toxicity, etc.

2) degradation of biodiversity and environment that includes soil degradation, water contamination due to pesticide use, etc.

3) contamination of fields and other risks such as weed or cross pollinating with related weeds giving rise to new pest resistant and herbicide tolerant weeds; widespread contamination of conventional rice by GE rice; and glyphosate drift on rice leading to severe yield loss.

GE is now an important tool enabling corporations to claim ownership over 'seeds' they 'invented', giving them legal basis to control their sale and use. This adversely affects small farmers as they are forced to purchase seeds every season thereby, reducing their earning capabilities and taking away their rights to save seeds.

Golden Rice is genetically engineered to produce beta-carotene and deliver pro-vitamin A that reduces blindness. However, it does not address the biological, cultural and dietary factors underlying the causes of vitamin A deficiency (VAD). This is a techno-fix approach incapable of solving the problem but rather taking resources and attention from practical solutions / alternatives such as eating Vitamin A enriched fruits and vegetables. It also perpetuates the industrial model of agriculture which eliminates biodiversity which in turn is a major cause of dietary diversification, the main cause of malnutrition.

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