For years I use to wonder why anyone would be upset with the genetic engineering that was going on in the agricultural world. For me it was hard to see how a tomato plant that was disease resistant, needed less water, was perfectly round, beautiful red color and loaded with extra vitamins and did not taste like cardboard, could on average be a bad product. That was until those plants and several others had been around for awhile.
The problem was real and did warrant concern. Let me tell you more.
One issue was the new genetically engineered plants produced less pollen than a “natural” or non genetically engineered plant. This meant that the honeybees who are critical to pollination of our existing botanical systems worldwide, were having to travel farther distances, use more energy just to get enough pollen to sustain the bee hives. The worker bees were being extended in the distance traveled, as well as the nutritional supply needed, to do more work in the same time.
This change was due to the genetic engineering of the better plants for human consumption but it started to offset the honeybee population which was vital to our existence. Over time the problem was recognized and some changes have been implemented such as planting heavily pollen laden natural plants with the genetic engineered plants. What happens is the honeybees still go to the tomato plants, yet directly beneath the plant is a companion plant that has the pollen the honeybee needs for it’s hive. The workload is now the same, the abundance of pollen can be increased for the honeybee population and by improving one plant we saw the improvement was at the expense of other plants simply due to the fact pollination was not occurring because of the extra work load placed upon the bee population.
Not being knowledgeable on plant genetics let’s now hope it’s also easier to genetically alter some plants to produce more pollen and with genetic engineering the plight of the honeybee can be improved.
Of course now I’m not quite as naive as I was for it’s simple to see everything has balance and to take from one generally means to give to another.
On balance though are we better off or worse? That is an issue by issue decision.