Green genetic engineering as it is used in agriculture and the food industry is all about creating new species of plants that are highly resistant to pests and pesticides or contain higher levels of nutrients than traditional plants.
Modification of the hereditary properties of agricultural crops is probably the most controversial field of biotechnology. Its advocates offer the prospect of a way of combatting hunger in an ever-expanding world – but its opponents warn of unforeseen consequences.
Green genetic engineering goes a step further, however: biotechnologists modify the hereditary properties of plants by introducing a foreign gene with certain characteristics into the plant’s genetic structure. This creates transgenic plants – plants whose genetic properties have been modified so that they need less fertiliser and fewer pesticides but produce better yields. Green genetic engineering is also intended as a major contribution toward sustainability. Industrial manufacturing is a further application, Scientist Matin Qaim, Professor of World Nutrition at Göttingen University, sees it as an opportunity to reduce our consumption of resources.
The Munich Environmental Institute, however, indicate that genetically modified plants like maize or cotton, continuously produce a bacterial poison that is fatal to insects, and this poses a substantial risk to the environment; research has shown that the poison kills not only pests but also beneficial insects.
With a threat to biodiversity, the environment and public health, yet a promise of combatting hunger in an ever-expanding world, the persisting question then is: is Green Genetic Engineering really sustainable?