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Ecological effects of the release of genetically engineered organisms Essay

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Updated: Sep 18th, 2019


There are adverse ecological effects of genetically engineered organisms in the environment. However, they have varying effects on the environment. Nonetheless, both natural plants and animals are affected by these side effects. However, apart from the side effects on animals and plants, there are general degradation of the ecosystem that results from the associated activities of genetically engineered organisms.

The potential gains of these organisms are usually offset by their negative ecological effects. Therefore, this paper covers ecological effects of genetically engineered organisms stressing specific effects of organisms on natural plants and animals in their respective ecosystems.

Ecological Effects of Genetically Engineered on Natural Plants’ Ecosystems

Globally, genetically engineered plants have drastically increased in terms of their vegetative cover, thus covering a substantial global area. However, according to Conner and Nap (2003), there are several concerns that genetically engineered crops have adverse negative ecological effects. Nonetheless, there are several reasons that have contributed to their widespread adoption by several countries.

Some of these reasons include insect resistance characteristics and the herbicides tolerance that the crops have. Another common reason for adoption of these crops are their high yielding features.

Thus, it is hoped that through them, the world can be able to solve food shortage problems that usually characterize developing countries. On the other hand, there are several adverse ecological effects that are associated with these plants which surpass the highlighted benefits.

To begin with, genetically engineered plants have been established to have negative effects on biodiversity. According to Robinson and Sutherland (2002), concerns have been raised that genetically engineered plants have negative impacts on the soil organisms.

Beneficial soil organisms such as earthworms, mites, nematodes, woodlice among others are some of the soil living organisms that are adversely affected by introduction of genetically engineered organisms in the ecosystem since they introduce toxins that are lethal to the survival of these organisms.

Moreover, with application of genetically engineered plants in the ecosystems, it has been established that there is a potential flow of genes from genetically engineered crops to the natural wild crops.

Therefore, spontaneous mating of these two crops categories posses threats of extinction of natural wild plants in these ecosystems. This is likely to lead to formation of transgenic plants that will replace the entire wild plants in the ecosystem hence resulting in clear extinction of natural species. Nonetheless, in respect to this, there are also risks of genes’ imbalance to crops that results from transgenic plants (Huang et al., 2003).

Therefore, with the widespread adoption of genetically engineered plants, the world is likely to witness genetic alteration of the vegetative covers. This is likely to result to irreversible state of vegetative genetic makeup hence having drastic ecological impacts in future.

Furthermore, according to Robinson and Sutherland (2002), genetically engineered plants have the ecological characteristic of invasiveness of the natural habitats hence offering resource competition to these wild plants.

Given the faster multiplication characteristics of these crops in the environment, natural plants are exposed to stiff competition for available resources hence being susceptible to extinction from the ecosystems. According to Romeis and Bigler (2006), genetically modified plants have become feral and therefore, they invade natural habitats and permanent purge out these natural species.

In addition, Stewart and Warwick (2003) hold that when crops die, their cells usually decompose to release contents in the soil. Therefore, fungi and soil bacteria are typically involved in the decomposition process. Since genetically engineered plants are usually made of antibiotics and other genes, they often alter balance power in the soil.

These plants residue usually release antibiotics that affect soil ecology hence having adverse negative impacts. For that matter, the genes released in the soil are then absorbed by other plants hence altering their genetic makeup completely.

Moreover, Romeis and Bigler (2006) opine that genetically engineered plants have high rate of multiplication and hence, they are able to cover vast tracks of land in a short time frame. This is a negative effect to ecology as crop diversity becomes history to such environments. Therefore, this result in biological desert since natural environment that initially was comprised of wild population of plants is totally eliminated.

Nevertheless, according to Romeis and Bigler (2006), genetically engineered plants have ecological effects on erosion. It is believed that these plants have weak vegetative cover and loose soil holding capacity as compared to natural wild plants that have strong vegetative covers and heavy soil holding capacity.

Therefore, with massive adoption of these plants, the ecological environment usually suffers since it loses soil and nutrients through soil erosion which becomes intensive in areas covered by genetically modified crops.

In addition, according to Robinson and Sutherland (2002), opine that one gene may have several traits effects in an organism. For that matter, a gene that is desired to have a given effect in an organism may have several undesired auxiliary effects that may result in unforeseen adverse effects.

As a result, this always leads to fatal damages to the carrier organisms and to the environment as a whole since the undesired effects can lead to permanent defects in natural species.

On the other hand, Romeis and Bigler (2006) hold that with application of genetically engineered organisms, there is usually a high possibility of interbreeding between these organisms with wild species. For that matter, negative effects associated with this type of hybridization is experienced. For example, hybridization leads to alteration of native species; thus, their relationship with the ecological environment is affected negatively.

Moreover, Robinson and Sutherland (2002) note that with genetically engineered organisms, there is usually an increased competition of resources of these organisms with natural species. One reason why genetically engineered organisms are pursued is their potential for faster growth and increased productivity.

For that matter, genetically engineered organisms mature fast hence providing unfair competitive advantage that makes them spread to new habitats hence altering ecological composition to these environments.

Nonetheless, according to Stewart and Warwick (2003), there is a large risk of ecosystem destruction due to the risks associated with effects of genetically engineered organisms.

For instance, in cases where the ecosystem is affected by interbreeding, the ecosystem is usually replaced by alien breed and this may have widespread effects that even surpass the affected species. For that matter, these genetically engineered organisms further act as predators, thus altering food balance in the ecosystem.

In addition, Romeis and Bigler (2006) opine that genetically engineered organisms pose a threat to soil fertility. This is a significant problem since these modified organisms damage soil ecology because of the activities of these micro-organisms.

For that matter, there are potential risks of having a permanent alteration of soil micro-organism composition. As a result of that, soil fertility is negatively altered hence having everlasting impacts on soil as it is largely degraded.

Moreover, it is also acknowledged by Stoate (2001) that a gene called Bacillus thuringiensis is further suspected to have adverse effects on the soil ecology. This gene is usually present in every genetically engineered organism and it enters the soil ecology through decomposition of the parts of the plants that are not harvested.

Therefore, as these parts of the plant decompose, they become toxins in the soil ecosystem hence micro-organisms in this ecosystem are largely affected. As a result, because of elimination of micro-organisms, the fertility of the soil ecology is further degraded.

Moreover, it is asserted by Stewart and Warwick (2003) that genetically engineered organisms affect other ecological species in a more negative way. For instance, it is affirmed by Courtney, Kirkland and Viguerie (1997) that there have been some noted decreases in population of bird species in areas where genetically engineered organisms are highly applied.

This is attributed to the elimination of individual plants that these birds’ species feed on in the ecosystem. Therefore, with elimination of plants that animal species feed on in the environment leads to a negative ecosystem imbalance.

Nevertheless, it is also opined by Robinson and Sutherland (2002) that with constant use of genetically engineered organisms, there is an increased risk of virus genes in these organisms breeding to new complex viruses. Thus, with increased application of these organisms, a number of viruses in the ecosystems will continue to increase hence leading to ecosystem imbalance.

Ecological Effects of Genetically Engineered Aquatic Organisms

Amongst the aquatic life, the organisms that are genetically engineered are the fish species given their economic and food value to human beings. Therefore, in respect to aquatic life, the paper considers fish to be organisms that are largely engineered genetically and hence provides their ecological effects.

To begin with, according to Abel and Robert (2007) genetically engineered fish farming has been generalized to have adverse effects on the environment which ranges from obliteration of the coastal habitats which are sensitive in the background, environmental pollution and destruction of aquatic biodiversity which spell doom to ecological well being.

Nonetheless, it is well argued by Hargrave (2005) that a balancing point needs to be reached between environmental issues and food security since aquaculture is one of the critical sectors that is capable of eliminating poverty especially to the coastal communities and to guarantee food security to the world’s surging population.

Moreover, it is postulated by Pillay (2004) that there is a direct relationship between reduction of the natural stocks in the aquatic ecosystem and genetically engineered fish farming. This condition, according to Hargrave (2005), is ascribed to the environmental effects that genetically engineered fish farming has on the environment.

For instance, when feeding fish, the genetically modified feed is usually broadcasted on the water surface, which is then consumed. Nonetheless, not all fish feed are consumed. For that matter, the remnants of these feed usually settle at the bottom where micro-organisms decompose them. As a result, there is alteration of the normal biological condition in the ecosystem, which becomes harmful to aquatic life, including fish themselves.

On the other hand, farmers engaged in genetically engineered fish farming, according to Holmer, Kenny and Carlos (2007) usually over-feed fish farms. Consequently, these genetically engineered reared fish mature and multiply faster than natural species in the aquatic environment.

As a result, this leads to alteration of the structure of the benthic community since a lot of food supply favor to other aquatic organisms by means of the disadvantage of others. Furthermore, Abel and Robert (2007) opine that oversupply of genetically engineered feed to these aquatic environment leads to oxygen depletion, which comes as a result of microbial decomposition.

Moreover, Hargrave (2005) adds that most of this food are composed of therapeutic chemicals and antibiotics, which in most cases are poisonous to some organisms hence adversely affecting natural aquatic life.

Furthermore, genetically engineered living organisms undergo excretion process where their wastes combine with nutrients that are normally released by feed that is usually in excess. These raise alkalinity level in the aquatic environment, which becomes the ideal environment for other organisms such as algae to flourish.

This creates a competition environment between aquatic life and aquatic parasites for aquatic resources hence resulting in what is commonly referred to as survival for fitness.

In addition, Pillay (2004) adds that when some of the aquatic organisms such as algae die, they decompose using available oxygen which is further depleted. Moreover, their decomposition also induces toxins in the environment hence making the environment unpalatable for natural aquatic life. As a result, natural species is depleted further to extinction.

Nonetheless, Pillay (2004) affirms that genetically engineered organism in the aquatic environment ironically depends on natural living organisms to survive. It is believed by Holmer, Kenny and Carlos (2007) that genetically engineered organisms do not provide alternative to natural life but only facilitate depletion of natural organisms.

This is an issue of environmental concern since extensive engineering of genetically modified organisms is a way of ensuring extinction of the natural species. On the other hand, Abel and Robert (2007) hold that feeding genetically modified organisms on natural organisms results into depletion of proteins in the world since the few available natural species will be consumed to extinction in this aquatic environment.

Furthermore, genetically engineered organisms lead to introduction of new hybrids species. According to Hargrave (2005), these breeds can not breed with indigenous ones.

In addition, it is acknowledged by Holmer, Kenny and Carlos (2007) that these hybrids can not survive long enough to reach a breeding stage that can help it to increase their population. As a result, this leads to extinction of some of the rare species of natural life in the aquatic environment hence impacting negatively this ecosystem.

Additionally, genetically engineered aquatic farming has resulted in serious problem of habitat destruction hence having adverse effects on the environment. According to Abel and Robert (2007), Asia which is the leading continent in genetically modified aquatic farming, has lost mangrove forests close to 400, 000 hectares which have directly been converted to this practice.

However, genetically modified aquatic farming supports the Gross Domestic Product of these countries, but the loss of the vegetative cover is a taunting phenomenon environmentally.

This is so since mangrove forests are known for their salt mashes which is critical in prevention of soil erosion and forms a habitat of several marine organisms. Therefore, conversion of tropical mangroves forests to genetically modified aquatic farming is a crude manner of habitat destruction.

In addition, genetically modified aquatic farming also entails treatment of diseases using antibiotics. As a result, Holmer, Kenny and Carlos (2007) argue that antibiotics results to mutant strain which in most cases are released to large water masses such as oceans and seas that expose wild stock to these toxic substances.

Therefore, bacterial, fungal and viral infections are introduced in the wild stock due to genetically engineered organisms. Moreover, prevalent of antibiotics in the ecosystem results to mutation of certain diseases which in turn accumulate in the aquatic ecosystem hence leading to disease accumulation in the food chain.

Notably, Hargrave (2005) acknowledges that genetically modified aquatic farming is the same as having sewage that is untreated being directed to the shores. This is attributed to the fact that waste matter freely flows from genetically engineered habitations to another aquatic ecosystem which causes resident species in this environment, including wild organisms to extinct from their environment.


To wind up, it is can be concluded that genetically engineered organisms have adverse effects to the ecology than their perceived benefits. Some of the ecological effects these organisms are irreversible. Therefore, once the effects have been caused the ecological environment suffers considerable impacts that become a problem in the environment.

One of the dormant effects that these organisms have on the environment is the alteration of soil micro-organisms which becomes the primary causality hence affecting the fertility of the soil in the ecological environment. Therefore, genetically engineered organisms must be avoided at all costs to maintain natural environmental environment.


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Courtney, H., Kirkland, J. & Viguerie, P. (1997) Strategy under Uncertainty. Harvard Business Review, 97(603), pp.67-79.

Hargrave, B. (2005). Environmental Effects of Marine Finfish Aquaculture. Berlin: Springer.

Holmer, M., Kenny, B. & Carlos, M. D. (2007). Aquaculture in the Ecosystem. Denmark: Springer.

Huang, J. K. et al. (2003) Biotechnology as an Alternative to Chemical Pesticides: A Case Study of Bt cotton in China. Agricultural Economics, 29(13), pp.55-67.

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Stewart, C. N. & Warwick, S. I. (2003) Transgene Introgression from Genetically Modified Crops to their Wild Relatives. Nature Reviews Genetics, 4(7), pp.806-817.

Stoate, C. et al. (2001) Ecological Impacts of Arable Intensification in Europe. Journal of Environmental Management, 63(7), pp.337-365.

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