It's a conundrum that has some scientists scratching their heads.
The United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity, which is being held in The Hague this week (4/15-19), is examining the issue of whether plant sterility genes should be banned internationally. So far, India is the only nation to ban the technology, although the technology is not being used in any nation.
Purdue University bioethicist Paul Thompson says much of the opposition to plant sterilization technology is misplaced fury.
"It's an issue that's not very well understood, and I think environmental groups haven't thought through the potential benefit of the gene," Thompson says. "The important thing that is being overlooked is that incorporating the gene is a good strategy for limiting the environmental impact of genetically modified plants."
Thompson holds the Joyce and Edward Brewer Chair in Applied Ethics in Purdue's Department of Philosophy, and is the author of "Agricultural Ethics: Research, Teaching, and Public Policy" and "Food Biotechnology in Ethical Perspective."
William Muir, professor of animal sciences, has done extensive work on the ecological risk of introducing genetically modified plants and animals into the environment.
Through his research, Muir and Rick Howard, professor of biology, have shown that if a genetically modified plant or animal has a reproductive advantage, such as being larger, it could become an invasive species or even drive the native population to extinction.
"Any ecosystem took billions of years to co-adapt to other species and become established," Muir says. "A major problem with maintaining such an ecosystem is the introduction of exotic plants and animals, as w
Contact: Steve Tally