Team:Purdue/Policy and Practices/Policy



Regulations and Policy

Soil Regulation is an essential component in the overall design of our project since the overarching goal of the project is to be able to distribute the final design to stakeholders that include foreign countries. Several countries seems to show high malnutrition and micronutrient deficiencies. This requires that the final genetically modified product not only be able to fulfill its original purpose but also have minimal to no side effects, thus requiring carefully framed regulation policies.

In the United States of America, users of soil additives are only required to file for a permit if the additive is used for propagation. Additives used in/or out of plants are not regulated and bacteria (including Minecrobe), and other additives such as fungi, nematodes, phytoplasmas and viruses, genetically modified or not, all fall within the same regulation. The problem presented is that GMO bacteria are engineered specifically in a laboratory environment to fulfill a specific purpose and are needed in regulated amounts due to the possibility that the bacteria could present side effects such as causing nutrient imbalances.This calls forth for new regulations and guidelines to be created for project inecrobe, specifically for genetically modified organisms in soil environments.

Current regulation of GMO’s are more directly related to genetically modified crops which are found in the marketplace and thus represent a large capital world wide. However, regulation of GM crops and our Minecrobe will share several similarities. This includes being able to regulate transformation methods, constructs of the modified genetic structure, recipient organisms, donor organisms, and intended phenotype which all constitute an IGEM project. In the United States, such regulations are upheld by the United States Department of Agriculture, the Environmental Protection Agency, and the Food and Drug Administration. New regulations that would be specific for genetically modified bacteria such as Minecrobe that will act as a soil additive on an industrial scale should include aspects such as large scale field testing before becoming available in the open market, handling and distribution training, and killswitch availability. The design of the regulation procedure can be modelled off of how new GM crops are produced from design, feasibility, field testing, to industrial manufacturing.

Another world model in agricultural regulation is overseen by the European Commision. Europe’s main executive body consists of representatives from multiple countries and they represent the interests of Europe as a whole. In June of 2014, the commision passed new legislation towards member states to restrict or ban GMO cultivation within their respective territories. The European Commision dictates that no GMO is allowed to be released into the market until they are subjected to rigorous field testing in the ecosystems that the GMO interacts with. The EU has a set of policies that can guide a person to test if the presented GMO is too dangerous to release into the market. However, since the new legislation has passed, fewer GMO based products have been cultivated across the continent. In contrast, a report conducted by the commision that evaluated the quality of the legislation on stakeholders conducted between 2009 and 2011 indicated that there was a greater need for flexibility on GMO cultivation.

India is another major world agricultural contributor. The use of GMO’s in Indian agriculture has been a major debate. There have been many concerns about the use of GMO such as health issues, loss of biodiversity, loss of indigenous varieties through genetic contamination. This continued to occur until 2009, when the Indian Ministry of Agriculture passed legislation in the absence of a scientific consensus to impose a moratorium on several GMO’s until the concerns of the public, scientists, and state government have been addressed.

The role of GM crops in African agriculture is essentially nonexistent, only contributing 1.6 percent of the world’s land area planted with GM crops. According to the International Food Policy Research Institute, the reason for this is a lack of established biosafety regulatory systems in each country and a lack of capital investment in GMO research. However, studies done on GM cotton in South Africa has shown to increase crop yields up to 11%. Thus, there is increasing interest in GMO use in African nations. Though particularly undeveloped, the potential for implementing GMO’s in developing African nations is increasing, and importable solutions such as Minecrobe could pose to be an immense benefit when compared to domestic research and development efforts.

Potential Issues

There are some potential concerns with our specific application of genetic engineering. By modifying our bacteria to produce the iron chelating phytosiderophores, we are intending to increase the bioavailability of iron in plants which would otherwise be iron deficient, thus fighting micronutrient deficiencies. This approach has a few potential issues if it were to be “too successful”. For example, increasing the bioavailability of iron in the target plant due to soil content may also increase the bioavailability of iron in non-target plants, possibly contributing to harmful algal blooms. There is also a looming threat that our organism would spread beyond our control and lead to excess iron in our natural waters systems. Higher iron water content could lead to a reddish brown or yellow slime that can clog plumbing and causes an offensive odor. This is a possible downside to altering the bacteria in the soil rather than the operation of the plant itself, though there are many upsides to our method which tip the balance. However, even if this is an issue that isn’t solved by our bacteria, it is an issue that has similar implications by the use of fertilizers as well. Increasing the bioavailability of iron to the target plant may also lead to an excess of iron in the plant, resulting in iron toxicity. In addition to that, iron competes with manganese, so an excess of iron availability may lead to a deficiency in manganese. Iron deficiency, manganese deficiency, and excess iron all typically result in characteristic discolorations. Such discolorations would discourage consumer purchasing and reduce farmer profits. These issues, if they do turn out to be concerns, are the same problems one would have with traditional fertilizers, and the solution is to simply avoid overuse of Minecrobe, as with iron-chelator-containing fertilizers.


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