Biotechnology, biodiversity, and the environment

Authored by: Barbara A. Schaal , Joseph M. Jez

Routledge Handbook of Biodiversity and the Law

Print publication date:  December  2017
Online publication date:  November  2017

Print ISBN: 9781138693302
eBook ISBN: 9781315530857
Adobe ISBN:


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The topic of biotechnology and genetically engineered (GE) organisms, both plants and animals, generates highly polarized debate around such issues as health, the environment, economics, international relations, the business practices of large corporations, and ethics. One of the most active areas of this debate is the potential effect of agricultural biotechnology on the environment (NRC Board on Agriculture Report, 2002). At one extreme is the claim that GE organisms will greatly harm global agriculture, human health, and the environment. Whereas, advocates maintain that there are few, if any, new risks and that biotechnology benefits both global agriculture and the environment. However, there is a vast middle ground that acknowledges the great potential of agricultural biotechnology but also raises science-based concerns. An unfortunate aspect of the controversy is the tendency to see biotechnology as either good or bad. Biotechnology involves many species, both plants and animals, with a wide range of modifications that are placed in diverse agricultural and natural systems worldwide. Whether or not an application of biotechnology has potential harmful, beneficial, or neutral effects on the environment is both species- and context-specific and depends on the GE plant (or animal), the geographical region where the organisms are placed, and the local biological environment.

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