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Tanya Cheeke-Icoz, Portland State University, Portland, OR
“Evaluating the Effects of Genetically Modified Plants on Beneficial Fungi in the Soil Ecosystem” Category: Agriculture: 2009
Genetically modified corn has been grown commercially since 1996 and now constitutes 80% of all corn grown in the United States. There are many benefits of using biotechnology in agriculture, particularly the reduced use of broad-spectrum pesticides. However, despite the widespread cultivation of these crops in the U.S. and abroad, the environmental effects of this technology have not been thoroughly evaluated. Transgenic Bt corn releases an insecticidal toxin that binds to soil particles and accumulates in the environment over time. Because soil microorganisms are vital for decomposing organic matter, recycling nutrients, and forming symbiotic relationships with plants, it is important to determine the effects of transgenic crop production on beneficial organisms in the soil. Ms. Cheeke-Icoz will evaluate the benefits and potential impacts of agricultural biotechnology on the soil environment with the goal of finding an acceptable balance between the use of genetically engineered crops and the preservation of a healthy soil ecosystem. Results from her work will provide a comprehensive assessment of the impact of Bt plants on beneficial soil organisms across a broad range of environmental and ecological conditions.