Genetically engineered (GE) food has many potential benefits. Here are three:
1. GE crops can greatly benefit farmers. Although GE seeds are more expensive than non GE seeds, they are a boon for farmers because they can reduce the need for costly and sometimes dangerous pesticides, and may greatly increase per-acre productivity. Since GM crops were introduced in the 1990s, they've added billions of dollars of income to farmers, with the biggest beneficiaries small farmers in developing countries.
Here are some helpful links: https://isaaa.org/resources/publications/pocketk/5/default.asp
"Global income and production effects of GM crops 1996-2012) in GM Crops and Food: Biotechnology in Agriculture and the Food Chain.http://www.pgeconomics.co.uk/page/36/-gm-crop-use-continues-to-benefit-the-environment-and-farmers
2. GE crops can also have positive environmental impacts. Crops like pest-resistant corn and pest-resistant cotton greatly reduce the need for pesticides and tilling. At a time when arable land is increasingly precious, GE crops can produce higher yields – and that means more food on less land. In the future, crops could be bioengineered to be more nitrogen-efficient. This would make agriculture far more sustainable, as nitrogen fertilizers are expensive, seep into the water table and can adversely impact the environment. Scientists are developing "climate-smart" crops, such as flood-tolerant rice and drought-tolerant sweet corn, that are better adapted to the rigors of a changing climate.3. GE crops also benefit consumers. The recently approved Arctic Apple was bred to brown more slowly after slicing. A new bioengineered potato has lower amounts of naturally occurring, but cancer-causing, acrylamide. Other crops are "biofortified" to enhance their vitamin and mineral content. For instance, Golden Rice has been bred with added beta-carotene content. Golden Rice could help people — especially children — in parts of the world where rice-based diets are vitamin-A deficient. Crop scientists are also working on a "Golden" or "Super" banana with increased vitamin A content, and folate-enriched tomatoes.
There is no single silver bullet that will solve the world's food production needs. However, if we look at projected estimates of population growth — 9 billion people by 2050 — and consider our finite land and water resources, it's very clear that we humans need to employ all our ingenuity to feed the world in an agro-ecologically responsible way.
Smarter crops—including smart GE foods — can play important roles in feeding the world using less land and less harmful chemicals. At a time when farmers are being challenged by the changing climate, scientists are using agricultural biotechnology to develop critically needed drought- and flood-tolerant crops, and climate-smart crops that reduce the need for nitrogen-based fertilizers.Thanks to advanced genetic engineering, a growing number of crops have been biofortified to increase their vitamin content. For instance, Golden Rice has been bred with added beta-carotene. Since there is no beta carotene in rice, this could be helpful to people of the world with rice-based diets where thousands of children suffer from vitamin-A deficiency. Crop scientists are also working on a vitamin-enriched "Super Banana" and sweet potatoes bred with increased vitamin A. Although people can get their Vitamin A through other means, biofortification is an important option that can help people who food insecure to get the essential micronutrients they need.
Here’s a few additional links:
Golden Rice: http://irri.org/golden-rice
Golden Bananas -- https://www.qut.edu.au/news/news?news-id=74075
Nitrogen efficient GE crops
You are more likely to be hit by an asteroid than be hurt by GE food — and that's not an exaggeration.
Hundreds of rigorous studies of GE foods have been published in peer-reviewed journals and none of them report adverse health effects. Hundreds of millions of people have eaten GE foods — 10 trillion meals and counting — without a single credible report of a health problem.
The most highly respected scientific bodies on the planet – The American Medical Association, the World Health Organization, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the Royal Academy of Science, the FDA, the European Food Safety Commission and the Japanese Food Safety Commission — all report no adverse health effects from GE foods.
Genetically engineered crops currently available to the public pose no greater health risks or environmental concerns than their non-engineered counterparts. This is not opinion: Scientific consensus on the safety of foods derived from GE plants is equivalent to the consensus on global climate change driven by human activities.
In less than 20 years, the global acreage of biotech crops has increased more than 100-fold — from 1.7 million hectares in 1996 to over 175 million hectares in 2013 – this makes biotech crops one of the fastest adopted agricultural technologies in history.
Farmers choose seeds based on what is best for their farms, market demand and local growing environments. Some farmers select GE seeds to reduce yield loss or crop damage from weeds, diseases, and insects. Other farmers choose GE seeds to reduce their costs and impacts on the environment. In some cases, farmers have selected GE seeds to save a crop – such as papaya from Hawaii — that was being threatened by a disease.
But clearly, the biggest reason for the rapid adoption of biotech seeds is because they have increased farmer income. The most exhaustive study of the economic impacts of GE crops ever conducted —a review of 147 peer-reviewed papers published in the Public Library of Science (PLoS) in November 2014 —found that GE crops have generated more than $115 billion in income for farmers since their introduction in 1996. Farmers who adopted GE realized an average profit gain of 69 percent.
Although GE seeds are more than expensive than non-GE seeds, the additional seed costs are overwhelmingly compensated through savings in chemical and mechanical pest control. A May 2014 study by agricultural economists Graham Brookes and Peter Barfoot found that farmers around the globe received an average of $3.33 for each dollar invested in GM crop seeds. The biggest income gains from GMO seeds have come to the farmers who need it most: resource-poor small farmers in the developing world.
GM crops: global socio-economic and environmental impacts 1996- 2012 Graham Brookes & Peter Barfoot<
1. Myth: Food that has been genetically modified may be harmful to humans.
The truth: There has not been on documented incident of ill health effects.
2.Myth: Trials show GM feed may cause cancer or stomach problems in animals.
The truth: Every major scientific institution in the field, including the European Food Standards Agency, has attacked and discredited the research. Prof. Gilles-Eric Seralini, who conducted the research, is closely linked to and funded by leading members of a homeopathy group that believes bone cancer can be cured with water and minute quantities of magnesium.
3. Myth: GE will lead to a stranglehold by multinationals like Monsanto.
The truth: Many GE crops have been developed by public sector universities and the intellectual property is not patented. The full cost of developing Golden Rice, which will remedy the vitamin A deficiency that kills and blinds millions of children per year, is being met by the charitable project behind it.
4. Myth: Seeds from GMOs are sterile.
The truth: GE seeds will germinate and grow just like any other plant. This idea has its roots in a type of genetic modification (dubbed the "Terminator Gene" by anti-biotech activists) that can make a plant produce sterile seeds. Monsanto owns the patent on this technique, but it has never been employed commercially.
5. Myth: Most seeds these days are genetically modified.
The truth: Actually, there are surprisingly few GE crops. GE crops that have been approved for commercial use are limited to: Corn, soybeans, cotton, canola, squash, papaya, apple, potato, plum, sugar beet, and alfalfa. Many of these crops are used for oils and animal feed. That leaves quite a lot of your garden untouched..
No. The only GE fruits and vegetables approved for sale are corn, soybeans, papaya, apples, potatoes, squash, and plums. Still, some 70 to 80 percent of the food on grocery store shelves likely contains processed ingredients from GE plants. That's because the vast majority of corn and soybeans grown in the United States are GE. These crops – the "commodity crops" — are generate ingredients that are used in processed foods, such as cornstarch, corn syrup, soybean oil, soy flour, and soy protein.
In short, most of the products in the produce section are not GE. But if you see a processed food that contains a corn or soy derivative, it most likely came from a GE source.
GMO proponents claim that there has been no harm shown from the consumption of GE foods. Is that a sufficient reason to continue their use?
GMOs are not a controversial topic among most scientists, particularly those who understand biotechnology, but they are controversial with the general public. A recent poll by the Pew Foundation and the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) underscores this dichotomy: Nearly 90 percent of scientists say it's safe to eat GE foods, while only 37 percent of the public agree. Why the tremendous disconnect??
One of the main reasons may be because the public doesn't know much about GE foods. You can view the Jimmy Kimmel video below for one humorous example.
Many people fear what they don't understand. For crop scientists and molecular biologists that understand the science, genetic engineering is a safer and more precise process than conventional breeding. With GE, plant breeders move a select gene in very precise way, whereas conventional breeders alter the entire genome in a trial and error way. Many people among the general public find the idea of transgenics — say, taking a gene from a bacterium and inserting it in corn — as unnatural and "Frankenfood." But ask molecular biologists about transgenics and they're non-plussed. They understand that DNA is a universal code shared by all living things — even the most distantly related. It's not where a gene comes from that matters, it's what the gene does, and its potential to be turned "on" or "off" or "up" or "down."
At the molecular level, all living things are more similar than different. That is one of the reasons genes can be moved so successfully between such seemingly different organisms such as plants and bacteria. Genes are not unique to the organisms from which they came. There aren't really "bacterial genes," but there are genes from bacteria that are the same as genes from very different organisms.
Science education — education that demystifies crop breeding, and shows the similarities and differences between traditional breeding and biotech methods, and the wide range of biotech methods — can really help people understand GE foods and make them less controversial. This pattern of initial rejection of technology and eventual acceptance is one we've seen again and again throughout history. For instance, when pasturized milk was first introduced, it was an extremely controversial technology. Opponents claimed it was an unnatural and deceptive technology that adversely affected food quality and the economics of production. Other technologies, such as freezing food and using microwave ovens were greatly feared when they were first introduced.
Also, there are many conflicting sources of information on the Internet. It's hard to know whom to trust. If you go online and search "GMOs," you can read all kinds of terrifying things. But when people understand that the overwhelming scientific consensus from major medical organizations, the world's major scientific bodies, and hundreds of peer-reviewed studies have concluded that GE crops are as safe any other food, and that the consensus on GE safety is as overwhelming as the scientific consensus on climate change – they may start changing their minds.