|PROS and CONS of Transgenic Crops: Economic Considerations|
IMPROVED CROP PRODUCTIVITY in POOR AREAS
The ability to boost agricultural production for poor populations and/or in poor soil or difficult growing climates is one of the stated goals of many plant researchers engaged in this work. A 2003 book edited by Nicholas Kalaitzandonakes, The Environmental and Economic Impacts of Agbiotech: A Global Perspective suggests that some progress toward increased productivity has been made. The book, which compiled a variety of research papers, found that insect-resistant and herbicide-tolerant technologies are reducing the risk of crop losses.
In addition, progress is being made toward developing transgenic varieties that are drought-tolerant (especially important for parts of Africa); UV-tolerant (able to withstand the sun's ultraviolet radiation at high elevations in the Andes or Himalayas); or virus-tolerant.
POTENTIAL to PRODUCE MEDICINES INEXPENSIVELY
Transgenic plants have the potential to produce pharmaceuticals at modest expense. Currently, transgenic bacteria produce most of the insulin to meet the needs of diabetics in the United States. In a similar vein, plants could be used to grow vaccine ingredients. For more information on biopharma, visit this link.
POOR FARMERS MIGHT BECOME DEPENDENT on INTERNATIONAL CORPORATIONS for SEED
Some transgenic crops are designed with “terminator technology.” This means that the seeds produced by the plant, though edible, are infertile: they cannot be used to grow the crop in the subsequent year. This feature provides two benefits: It reduces the likelihood that the plant will run wild in the environment; and it ensures a steady stream of income to the company that designed and sells the seeds.
But terminator technology also has two potential downsides - environmental and economic. First, pollen from the plants could invade neighboring fields and render those plants' seeds infertile as well. However, this problem can be addressed scientifically by designing a plant that has both infertile seeds and infertile pollen. Second, third world farmers could become dependent on buying seed every year rather than saving seed from one year's crop to plant the following year.