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Environmental Impact

From climate change to biodiversity loss - documenting human impacts on the environment

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CABI Book Chapter

Environmental impact of genetically modified crops.

Book cover for Environmental impact of genetically modified crops.


This book, containing 20 chapters, addresses the major concerns of scientists, policy makers, environmental lobby groups and the general public regarding the controversial issue on environmental impact (e.g. on soil and water ecology and nontarget organisms) of transgenic crops, from an editorially neutral standpoint. While the main focus is on environmental impact, food safety issues for both hum...

Chapter 14 (Page no: 296)

Biofuels: Jatropha curcas as a novel, non-edible oilseed plant for biodiesel.

The negative environmental impacts, the limited sources and rising prices of fossil fuels pose significant environmental and socio-economic challenges. Globally, major national and international initiatives are under way to identify, revive, research and recommend renewable sources of energy. One such renewable source is esterified vegetable oil, i.e. biodiesel. Crop plants yielding edible oilseeds can be diverted to the biodiesel market only to a limited extent due to their value in the food sector. One route to meeting the gap between the demand for food oils and the need for alternative fuel oils is the use of non-edible oilseed plants such as Jatropha curcas. J. curcas or physic nut is a member of the Euphorbiaceae family and has been the subject of much interest as a source of biodiesel due to a number of perceived advantages. For example, the by-products of J. curcas-based biodiesel production have potential as a nutritious seed cake for fodder, as a soil amendment or as a biogas feedstock. Glycerol can be used in a variety of industrial applications and J. curcas leaf, stem and bark extracts have uses in the medicinal, cosmetics, plastics and insecticide/pesticide industries. As an aid to sustainable rural development, J. curcas grows on marginal and wastelands promoting effective land use, gender empowerment and soil rehabilitation. However, neither J. curcas nor any other potentially useful non-edible oilseed plant is currently grown commercially. In fact, such plants are generally undomesticated and have yet to be subject to any genetic improvement with respect to yield quality or quantity. Also, many J. curcas accessions can be toxic to humans and animals due to the presence of toxic compounds such as curcins and phorbol esters. Thus, despite the enthusiasm in some countries for widespread plantation cropping, J. curcas is currently not commercially viable as a biodiesel feedstock without genetic improvement either through conventional breeding or molecular engineering because of unpredictable yield patterns, varying, but often low, oil content, the presence of toxic and carcinogenic compounds, high male to female flower ratio, asynchronous and multiple flowering flushes, low seed germination frequency, plant height and its susceptibility to biotic and abiotic stresses. This paper reviews the potential of Jatropha as a model, non-edible, oilseed plant and the research needed to realize its potential as a bioenergy crop.

Other chapters from this book

Chapter: 1 (Page no: 3) Transgenic crops and their applications for sustainable agriculture and food security. Author(s): Christou, P. Capell, T.
Chapter: 2 (Page no: 23) Environmental benefits of genetically modified crops. Author(s): Edwards, M. G. Poppy, G. M.
Chapter: 3 (Page no: 42) Developing a 21st century view of agriculture and the environment. Author(s): Pimentel, D. Paoletti, M. G.
Chapter: 4 (Page no: 61) Environmental risk assessment. Author(s): Tencalla, F. G. Nickson, T. E. Garcia-Alonso, M.
Chapter: 5 (Page no: 74) Insect resistance to genetically modified crops. Author(s): Tabashnik, B. E. Carrière, Y.
Chapter: 6 (Page no: 101) Resistance management of transgenic insect-resistant crops: ecological factors. Author(s): Raymond, B. Wright, D. J.
Chapter: 7 (Page no: 115) Herbicide-tolerant genetically modified crops: resistance management. Author(s): Owen, M. D. K.
Chapter: 8 (Page no: 165) Impact of insect-resistant transgenic crops on aboveground non-target arthropods. Author(s): Romeis, J. Meissle, M. Raybould, A. Hellmich, R. L.
Chapter: 9 (Page no: 199) Impact of genetically modified crops on pollinators. Author(s): Malone, L. A. Burgess, E. P. J.
Chapter: 10 (Page no: 225) Impact of genetically modified crops on soil and water ecology. Author(s): Wheatley, R.
Chapter: 11 (Page no: 240) Biodiversity and genetically modified crops. Author(s): Ammann, K.
Chapter: 12 (Page no: 265) Potential wider impact: farmland birds. Author(s): Whittingham, M. J.
Chapter: 13 (Page no: 278) Safety for human consumption. Author(s): Phipps, R. H.
Chapter: 15 (Page no: 327) European commercial genetically modified plantings and field trials. Author(s): Ortego, F. Pons, X. Albajes, R. Castañera, P.
Chapter: 16 (Page no: 344) Monitoring Bt resistance in the field: China as a case study. Author(s): He, K. L. Wang, Z. Y. Zhang, Y. J.
Chapter: 17 (Page no: 360) Current status of crop biotechnology in Africa. Author(s): George, D.
Chapter: 18 (Page no: 383) Agriculture, innovation and environment. Author(s): Ferry, N. Gatehouse, A. M. R.

Chapter details

  • Author Affiliation
  • School of Biology, Institute for Research on Environment and Sustainability, Newcastle University, Newcastle upon Tyne, UK.
  • Year of Publication
  • 2009
  • ISBN
  • 9781845934095
  • Record Number
  • 20093074632