GM Ethics - Plants

'Discuss the ethical concerns raised by the genetic manipulation of animals (including humans), plants and microorganisms' - OCR specification

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GM Ethics - Plants

Advantages

  • Accumulation of beta-carotene in endosperm of seeds (Golden Rice) could combat vitamin A deficiency in the developing world where rice is the staple diet, hence reducing blindness.
  • Resistance to pesticides allows application of weedkillers and increase in yield.
  • Resistance to pests/fungal infections increases yield.

Disadvantages

  • GM crops could hybridise with wild relatives so the genes are spread to wild populations.
  • It could reduce the genetic diversity of the plant type (e.g rice). This means that all the clones are susceptible to the same environmental factors so a disease could lead to the extinction of the species.
  • Genes could pass to weed/unwanted species giving them herbicide or pesticide resistance, forming 'super-weeds'.
  • Genes for pest resistance could pass to other plant species, changing the stability of biological communities and possibly affecting many other organisms and food chains.
  • GM plants may be toxic to other organisms, or lead to allergic responses in humans.
  • Plants resistant to pathogens could stimulate the more rapid evolution of attack mechanisms in these pathogens.
  • Seeds of GM crops may be expensive and need to be bought each year, which could lead to the economic exploitation of farmers in developing countries.
  • The plants (e.g rice) may not grow in all areas that is needed due to do climate.
  • There are debates as to whether the vitamin A content of Golden Rice is sufficient.

Evaluation

Genetically modified crops may be required to solve the problems of hunger and malnutrition due to a growing human population, but at the cost of biodiversity. Care must be taken to keep the GM genes isolated from wild populations to avoid a decrease in genetic diversity and a disruption to ecosystems.

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