Bt Corn

Topics: Genetically modified food, Bacillus thuringiensis, Transgenic maize Pages: 9 (2830 words) Published: March 28, 2013
Research Question
“Evaluation of the commercialization of Bt-Corn breeds: how it is both economically efficient and overall beneficial for the environment.”

This paper discusses and evaluates both the negative and positive aspects and raised controversial issues regarding Bt-Corn, a transgenic maize developed through genetic engineering and biotechnology methods, and will finally conclude that the commercialization of Bt-Corn breeds for the past 14 years have been both economically advantageous and beneficial for the environment. The purpose of this paper is to further educate and inform the general audience regarding issues relating with genetically modified organisms and will try to disprove negative speculation and ambiguity with statistical data and experimental evidence.

Recent development and advances in the field of biotechnology and genetic engineering has enabled scientists today to improve crop varieties through alteration of their most fundamental building blocks, their DNA. These alterations of the genetic material allow scientists and researchers to develop ‘new species’ and breeds of organisms which posses certain altered favored traits, which would not otherwise naturally exist in the organism. (Peairs, 2007) However, there is much ambiguity and controversies surrounding the whole field of genetic engineering of organisms and their commercialization.

Bt-corn, a breed of transgenic maize whose genetic material has been altered to include the ability to produce a certain toxin that has specific insecticidal property against pests, has been commercialized now for several years in the US and also in several other countries such as Canada, Germany, Spain, Argentina, Honduras, South Africa and the Philippines. (Wu, 2006) The prefix ‘Bt’ from Bt-Corn originates from Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt), a species of soil bacterium that produces the insecticidal crystal protein or delta endotoxins, toxins that kill crop pests. Genetic engineering has allowed scientists to take the single gene that controls the production of the delta endotoxins from Bt, create a modified version of it and synthesize it with the DNA of selected corn species using recombinant DNA technology. This new set of ‘genetic code’ allows the plant to produce the delta endotoxins by itself; hence it is able to repel crop pests by itself.

This newly acquired attribute is like a miracle for farmers, not just corn farmers since the insecticidal attribute of ‘Bt’ has also been implemented in several other crops such as Bt-potatoes and Bt-sweet corn. However, there have been several issues raised against the commercialization of Bt-corn in recent years due to investigations, which reveals how Bt-corn pollen proves to be lethal to other species of organisms that are not considered as pests. (Peairs, 2007)

This paper will discuss, evaluate and finally demonstrate how the commercialization of Bt-Corn breeds is overall both economically efficient and beneficial for the environment through the following points: * Origins of Bt and Bt-Corn

* Mode of action of Bt toxins
* Economical and environmental advantages of Bt-Corn
* FDA regulations on genetically modified organisms
* Controversies and issues raised
* Evaluation

Origins of Bt and Bt-Corn
As previously stated above, Bt-Corn is a breed of transgenic maize whose genetic material have been altered and combined with the insecticidal crystal protein-producing trait of the common naturally occurring soil bacterium, Bacillus thuringiensis. Shigetane Ishiwata, a Japanese biologist, was the first to discover Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) in 1901. However, it was not until Ernst Berliner rediscovered it in 1911 in Thuringia, Germany, that the bacterium was named Bacillus thuringiensis. In 1938 a French company started commercially producing the combination of the bacterium and its toxin crystals as a pesticide, calling it Sporeine, and in the 1950’s...
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