vector carrier company sold transgenic plants resistant to the company's herbicides, but that could not produce their own seed, forcing the farmer to buy new seed each year. An international outcry led to the abandonment of this practice, but the use of crops that are resistant to certain herbicides, with a single company owning both seed and herbicide, continues. Some see this as a conflict of interest.

Groups that oppose genetically modified foods sometimes behave unethically. In 1999 environmental activists destroyed an experimental forest of poplars near London. The trees were indeed transgenic, but the experiments were designed to see if the trees would require fewer chemical herbicides, an activity the environmentalists had themselves suggested. More alarming were several incidents in the United States in 2000, when people who object to genetically modified foods vandalized laboratories and destroyed fields of crops, some of which were not even transgenic.

So far, foods containing GMOs appear to be safe. They may be easier to cultivate and may permit the development of new variants. However, it will take more time to determine whether or not they have longer term health and ecological effects. see also Biotechnology: Ethical Issues; Genetic Testing: Ethical Issues; Genetically Modified Foods; Transgenic Animals; Transgenic Plants.

Ricki Lewis


Charles, Dan. Lords of the Harvest. Cambridge, MA: Perseus Publishing, 2001.

Dalton, Rex. "Transgenic Corn Found Growing in Mexico." Nature 413 (September 27, 2001): 337.

Yoon, C. K. "Altered Salmon Leading Way to Dinner Plates, but Rules Lag." New York Times (May 1, 2000): A1.

Transgenic Plants

Transgenic plants are plants that have been genetically modified by inserting genes directly into a single plant cell. Transgenic crop plants modified for improved flavor, pest resistance, or some other useful property are being used increasingly.

Transgenic plants are unique in that they develop from only one plant cell. In normal sexual reproduction, plant offspring are created when a pollen cell and an ovule fuse. In a similar laboratory procedure, two plant cells that have had their cell walls removed can be fused to create an offspring.

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