Submitted to: Botanical Society of America Abstracts
Publication Type: Abstract Only
Publication Acceptance Date: June 1, 2003
Publication Date: July 1, 2003
Citation: Spooner, D.M. 2003. Transgenic plants: science, policy, politics. 2003 Botanical Society of America Abstracts. p. 3. Technical Abstract: The plants we use for food and fiber today have resulted from centuries of selection from wild relatives, and more recently from plant breeding programs often involving traditional sexual crosses and long periods of recurrent selection. While these breeding methods have produced wonderfully successful products to benefit modern society, recent biotechnological tools have introduced novel methods to circumvent some inefficiencies of traditional breeding, and have allowed the incorporation of novel traits not possible before. The incorporation of some of these "transgenic" crops has been dramatic. In the United States alone, the use of transgenic crops has risen dramatically, and for some crops, like cotton and soybeans, more than half of the acreage is planted in transgenic crops. Other economically important transgenic crops include potato, tobacco and maize. Common traits transferred to transgenic crops include a gene that kills insects when they eat the plant, a gene that confers herbicide resistance, a gene increasing the shelf life of fruits and vegetables, and a variety of disease resistance genes. There is considerable debate about the economic benefits and risks of the adoption of transgenic crops. Such debate varies from scientific concerns of transgene escape into non-transgenic crops or to native plants, to the definition of what constitutes transgenes of potential concern, to food safety. Debate also concerns social issues of consolidated control of the seed industry, reduction in the number of small family farms, to broader social and economic questions. Opinions are often highly polarized, and discussion is hindered by misinformation or distrust of alternative views. This symposium explores these topics from experts in a variety of fields ranging from ecology to policy, and in a variety of backgrounds from government to industry.