Transgenic crops: Engineering a more sustainable agriculture?

Bryan J. Hubbell, Rick Welsh

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

32 Scopus citations


Transgenic crops currently available for use potentially provide environmental benefits, such as reduction in insecticide use and substitution of less toxic for more toxic herbicides. These benefits are contingent on a host of factors, such as the potential for development of resistant pests, out-crossing to weedy relatives, and transgenic crop management regimes. Three scenarios are used to examine the potential sustainability of transgenic crop technologies. These scenarios demonstrate that existing transgenic varieties, while potentially improving the sustainability of agriculture relative to existing chemical based production systems, fail in enabling a fully sustainable agriculture. Genetic traits that have a higher potential for promoting a sustainable agriculture have been precluded from development for a number of reasons. These include the lack of EPA and USDA regulatory policies that explicitly promote sustainable traits; the structure of the agricultural biotechnology industry, which is dominated by agricultural chemical companies; and patent law and industry policies that proscribe farm households from saving transgenic seed and tailoring transgenic crops to their local environmental conditions - ecological, social, and economic.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)43-56
Number of pages14
JournalAgriculture and Human Values
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1998
Externally publishedYes


  • Biotechnology
  • Pest control
  • Policy
  • Sustainable agriculture
  • Transgenic crops

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Agronomy and Crop Science


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