Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Nontarget Effects of Genetic Manipulation

A Project of The Nature Institute
Project Director: Craig Holdrege

Introduction to This Site

Much of the public debate concerning genetically modified organisms, their widespread use in animal and human food, and their impact upon the environment could be raised to an entirely new and more productive level if certain undisputed facts were more widely known. The facts at issue have to do with the unintended and systemic consequences of genetic manipulations, as revealed in one research report after another.

Putting the matter plainly: when foreign genes are introduced into an organism, creating a transgenic organism (commonly called a genetically modified or genetically engineered organism), the results for the organism and its environment are almost always unpredictable. The intended result may or may not be achieved in any given case, but the one almost sure thing is that unintended results - nontarget effects - will also be achieved.

These facts have been, and are being, widely reported in the scientific literature. While they are correcting our understanding in important ways, they are not at all controversial. And they bear directly upon the wisdom of virtually all the current genetic engineering practices. If there has been limited reportage of nontarget effects in the popular press, it may be because the facts are often buried in technical scientific articles. And within genetic engineering research itself, scientists are mainly concerned with achieving targeted effects and not with investigating beyond the range of their own intentions and reporting unexpected effects. But when they do investigate, there is usually plenty to see.

It is the purpose of this project to make evidence about the wide-ranging and never wholly predictable effects of genetic engineering readily accessible to concerned citizens, policy makers, and scientists. We have collected examples from the scientific literature, primarily from peer-reviewed journals, and written short reports on each example. These are ordered according to different categories and include effects on the manipulated organisms themselves as well as broader environmental ripple effects. Currently we have included only studies related to nontarget effects associated with genetically modified plants. Our compilation of reports is by no means exhaustive and will be expanded over time. The technical literature we have not yet touched remains extensive.

Search Nontarget Effects

Click Here to browse and search our reports on the nontarget effects of genetic manipulations.

"Nontarget Effects of Genetic Manipulation - An Introduction"

This article by Craig Holdrege provides essential background information about nontarget effects. What do we mean by nontarget effects? How are nontarget effects detected? What are the different categories of nontarget effects? We encourage readers to consult this article in connection with searching the individual reports.

Genetics and Biotechnology

Here is a collection of articles on the broader issues of genetics and genetic engineering written by Nature Institute members Craig Holdrege and Steve Talbott, and others.

And here is a list of online resources relating to genetically engineered organisms—particularly their risks, regulation, and use.


The work of The Nature Institute is funded through grants from foundations, individual gifts and program income. We would like to thank our "Friends of The Nature Institute" as well as the following organizations for their support of our project on the nontarget effects of genetic manipulation: Cornerstone Campaign, Educational Foundation of America, Evidenzgesellschaft, GLS Treuhand, Mahle-Stiftung, RSF Shared Gifting Group, Rudolf Steiner-Fonds fuer wissenschaftliche Forschung, and the Software-AG Stiftung. We are especially grateful to the European foundations for recognizing the global nature of this issue and for supporting an organization in the United States.

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Copyright 2008 The Nature Institute

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