Ag Biotech

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From the 1970s through the late 1990s, a sizable share of the controversial issues at the interface of agriculture, the environment, and pubic health arose from the use of pesticides.

Only a few years later, agricultural biotechnology dominated the attention of farmers and the food industry, agri-input industries, as well as many farm, public interest, and environmental groups concerned about the trajectory of conventional agricultural production systems.

There are two widely planted genetic engineering (GE) traits incorporated in crop varieties in the U.S. and globally – herbicide tolerance and Bt-transgenic, insect-protected crops. Each type of GE traits has enjoyed remarkable commercial success, but the rapid pace of adoption lead to overuse, and then, as predicted by weed scientists and entomologists, the emergence and spread of resistant weeds and insects.

By the mid-2000s, the golden era of the GE revolution was waning. Farmers were spraying more, and paying more for GE seeds and pesticides, with uneven results. The detection of GE traits in U.S. commodity exports that were not approved by China and other foreign countries led to major market disruptions, and the loss of billions in exports sales and farm income, and high-dollar litigation.

Ironically, the GE-crop driven spread of resistant weeds and insects has triggered significant and rapid increases in herbicide and insecticide use, as documented in Impacts of GE Crops on Pesticide Use.

In a way, pesticides have come full circle. Residues of glyphosate have been found in human blood and urine, water, the air and soil. There is mounting evidence of adverse, GE-related pesticide impacts on non-target vegetation, pollinators, and aquatic ecosystems.

Rising reliance on and risks from pesticide use are emerging as a major flashpoint in the evolving debate over GE crops. In all likelihood, concern over the linkage between GE crops and pesticide use will grow more acute for several years to come.

Hygeia Analytics will cover major developments and discoveries in the GE-ag world, highlighting insights from recently published science.  We will also try to help readers place contemporary agricultural biotechnology issues into context, by looking back in the Historical Documents section at the some of the important milestones as the first generation of GE crops came to dominate American corn, soybean, and cotton production.

Section Outline

Historical Documents

A few key historical documents are highlighted here, and also see the section pages above for related historic resources or click here for historical resources from throughout the section.

Other Resources

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