Overview of Plant-Incorporated-Pesticides

Modified: 19th Oct 2021
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The advancement of genetically engineered crops has allowed them to play a fundamental role in the reduction of pesticide use and pollution, leading to overall decrease in negative environmental impact. Pesticides are chemicals such as sulphur, chlorine and nitrogen; that function to help reduce the damage caused to crops by pests such as diseases, weeds and insects. Without the implementation of pesticide, the pest population would grow uncontrollably, negatively impacting both the quality and quantity of crops. Despite the benefits that pesticides deliver in improving the yield of crops, it is essential to understand the negative impacts and consequences they have on environment (Williams, 1995). A major environmental impact of pesticide use is water pollution; this refers to the contamination of water due to the presence of harmful substances such as chemicals, and ultimately decreasing the quality of water (Konstantinou et al., 2006).

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The control of pest has been greatly improved with the introduction of crops such as corn and cotton that have been genetically engineered by researchers to be resistant to certain insects. This allows farmers to dramatically reduce the amount of pesticides they need to spray on their crops in order to ensure a successful harvest. Through genetic engineering researchers can produce plant-incorporated-pesticides (PIPs), referring to plants that are capable of producing their own pesticide once researchers have inserted the altered genetic material in them (Robinson et al., 2019). Researchers modify and alter the proteins found within a plant and through genetic engineering they are able to introduce a new protein within the plant (Anderson et al., 2019). This new protein is altered to serve as a pesticide and is made toxic to certain insects. Researchers are able to modify the protein to be highly specific and therefore it does not pose harm other insects or animals that may eat the plant such as humans. When these specific insects eat the plants, the inserted protein becomes toxic and leads the pests to die (Williams, 1995). An example of PIP is Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt), a naturally occurring soil bacterium that produces specific proteins that work against certain harmful insects. Specific crops such as soybean, corn and cotton have been genetically engineered to express the Bt genes; this acts as a natural built in insecticides that protects these crops against certain pests (Robinson et al., 2019). The implementation of these Bt crops has resulted in a dramatic decrease in the use of pesticides by farmers.

Agriculture and farming play a fundamental role in ensuring nutritional needs are met around the world. As the population increases dramatically so does the need for agriculture and it becomes imperative to understand the concerns this brings. By adopting (PIPs), farmers can dramatically reduce the water pollution they create without sacrificing the quality and quantity of their crops. Crops that have been genetically engineered to be pest resistant can limit the pollution created by pesticides and ultimately reduce the environmental impact agriculture and farming has on the environment. 

Although the discovery of the Bt toxin has played an essential role in the development of insect resistant crops, it is essential that researcher search for a variety of different toxins for pest control (Paoletti & Pimentel, 2000). By heavily relying on a single toxin researchers run the risk of increasing the environmental problems such as insect resistance and endangered insect species (Paoletti &Pimentel, 2000). The heavy use of herbicide resistant crops can have negative effects over time as insects develop resistance and are no longer affected by the herbicide resistant crops  (Paoletti &Pimentel, 2000). Growers may then need to implement heavier pesticide use to control the pests resulting in greater environmental pollution than originally (Paoletti &Pimentel, 2000).

References:

  • Paoletti, M. G., & Pimentel, D. (2000). Environmental Risks of Pesticides Versus Genetic Engineering for Agricultural Pest Control. Journal of Agricultural and Environmental Ethics12(3), 279–303.
  • (Paoletti &Pimentel, 2000)
  • Robinson, L., Jerry, Olins, P., Julie, Bjerregaard, E., Creaser, H., … Motorcycle Tours. (2019, January 26). GMOs and Pesticides: Helpful or Harmful? Retrieved February 13, 2020, from http://sitn.hms.harvard.edu/flash/2015/gmos-and-pesticides/
  • Konstantinou, I. K., Hela, D. G., & Albanis, T. A. (2006). The status of pesticide pollution in surface waters (rivers and lakes) of Greece. Part I. Review on occurrence and levels. Environmental Pollution141(3), 555–570. doi: 10.1016/j.envpol.2005.07.024
  • Faust, S. D., & Aly, O. M. (1964). Water Pollution by Organic Pesticides. Journal American Water Works Association56(6), 666–666.
  • Agrawal, A., Pandey, R. S., & Sharma, B. (2010). Water Pollution with Special Reference to Pesticide Contamination in India. Journal of Water Resource and Protection02(05), 432–448. doi: 10.4236/jwarp.2010.25050
  • Williams, M. E. (1995). Genetic engineering for pollination control. Trends in Biotechnology13(9), 344–349. doi: 10.1016/s0167-7799(00)88979-9
  • (Williams, 1995)
  • Anderson, J. A., Ellsworth, P. C., Faria, J. C., Head, G. P., Owen, M. D. K., Pilcher, C. D., … Meissle, M. (2019). Genetically Engineered Crops: Importance of Diversified Integrated Pest Management for Agricultural Sustainability. Frontiers in Bioengineering and Biotechnology7. doi: 10.3389/fbioe.2019.00024

 

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