This paper discusses the environmental risks of pesticides as compared to the risks associated with the application of genetic engineering and biotechnology in agricultural pest, plant pathogen and weed control. It is suggested that in terms of environmental and public health impacts, pesticides probably have a greater negative impact at present because of their more widespread use. The use of pesticides for pest control results in an estimated 26 million human poisonings, with 220 000 fatalities, annually worldwide. In the USA, the environmental and public health costs for the recommended use of pesticides total approximately $9 billion/year. Genetic engineering could promote improvements for the environment, however the current products have some serious environmental impacts. Relying on a single factor, like the Bacillus thuringiensis toxin that has been inserted into maize and a few other crops for insect control, leads to various environmental problems, including insect resistance and, in some cases, a threat to beneficial biological control insects and endangered insect species. A major environmental and economic cost associated with genetic engineering applications in agriculture relates to the use of herbicide resistant crops (HRC). In general, HRC technology results in increased herbicide use but no increase in crop yields. The heavy use of herbicides in HRC technology pollutes the environment and can lead to weed control costs for farmers that may be 2-fold greater than standard weed control costs.
|Publication Title||Journal of Agricultural & Environmental Ethics|