Genetic engineering involves altering the genetic structure of living plants and organisms making them capable of producing new substances or performing new functions (Anon 2002). Genes can also be transferred between different species to receive desired traits; this could not occur in nature due to limitations by the "natural barriers that exist between different species" (Anderson 2000). As the world's population continues to rise it is becoming increasingly clear that agriculture needs to intensify and become more extensive in order to meet the global food demands. These agricultural practices are known for causing negative impacts on the environment; including increased fertilisers and other chemical usage, increased irrigation, which, in many cases in Australia has lead to salinity problems, just to name a few. Potentially, improved genetic engineering technology may be the answer to increasing the yield size of crops as well as minimising agricultural impacts on the environment.
Currently the Australian government is working with CSIRO on a large research project to improve the understanding of possible impacts both beneficial and non-beneficial genetic engineered crops have on the environment. .
There are a number of environmental benefits that support the use of genetically engineered crops as part of future agricultural practices. For instance, by growing pest resistant crops a reduced use of insecticides may entail. This is beneficial as many other insects and animals are usually harmed with the use of non species-specific insecticides. Having pest resistant crops also reduces the amount of air pollution that results from the application of pesticides, especially by planes (Crop dusting), with this method insecticide can be blown to non target areas, another benefit here is that it decreases fuel consumption and airplane gas emissions. Pollution of waterways and soil may also be reduced.