BT Cotton

The true, the false and the still unknown about transgenic crops

Superweeds? Suicides? Stealthy genes? In the pitched debate over GM foods and crops, it can be hard to see where scientific evidence ends and dogma and speculation begin.

In the nearly 20 years since they were first commercialised, GM crop technologies have seen dramatic uptake. Advocates say that they have increased agricultural production by more than US$98-billion and saved an estimated 473 million kilograms of pesticides from being sprayed. But critics question their environmental, social and economic impacts.

Researchers, farmers, activists and GM seed companies all stridently promote their views, but the scientific data are often inconclusive or contradictory. Complicated truths have long been obscured by the fierce rhetoric.

“I find it frustrating that the debate has not moved on,” says Dominic Glover, an agricultural socioeconomist at Wageningen University and Research Center in the Netherlands. “The two sides speak different languages and have different opinions on what evidence and issues matter,” he says.

Here, Nature takes a look at three pressing questions: are GM crops fuelling the rise of herbicide-resistant ‘superweeds’? Are they driving farmers in India to suicide? And are the foreign transgenes in GM crops spreading into other plants?

These controversial case studies show how blame shifts, myths are spread and cultural insensitivities can inflame debate…..

Scientific American: Read this full scholarly article here