Genetically modified crops (GMC also known as GMO) are plants that have their DNA modified by the addition of other sourced DNA. This is done to impart additional characteristics to the plant so as to reduce their vulnurability to attacks by certain viruses, insects, and molds, for example. This ability has made GMCs in demand world-wide .
Between 1996 and 2015, the total surface area of land cultivated with GM crops increased by a factor of 100, from 17,000 km2 (4.2 million acres) to 1,797,000 km2 (444 million acres). 10% of the world’s arable land was planted with GM crops in 2010. In the US, by 2014, 94% of the planted area of soybeans, 96% of cotton and 93% of corn were genetically modified varieties. Use of GM crops expanded rapidly in developing countries, with about 18 million farmers growing 54% of worldwide GM crops by 2013. A 2014 meta-analysis concluded that GM technology adoption had reduced chemical pesticide use by 37%, increased crop yields by 22%, and increased farmer profits by 68%. This reduction in pesticide use has been ecologically beneficial, but benefits may be reduced by overuse. Yield gains and pesticide reductions are larger for insect-resistant crops than for herbicide-tolerant crops. Yield and profit gains are higher in developing countries than in developed countries
SAFE FOR PEOPLE
Is the use of GMCs safe? From Wikipedias we learn that:
There is a scientific consensus that currently available food derived from GM crops poses no greater risk to human health than conventional food, but that each GM food needs to be tested on a case-by-case basis before introduction.
Lets go back for some history related to hybrid crops. Past, modifications to crops:
The introduction of foreign germplasm into crops has been achieved by traditional crop breeders by overcoming species barriers. A hybrid cereal grain was created in 1875, by crossing wheat and rye. Since then important traits including dwarfing genes and rust resistance have been introduced. Plant tissue culture and deliberate mutations have enabled humans to alter the makeup of plant genomes.
A tobacco plant was the first to be genetically modified. Herbicide resistance was imparted to these plants with field trials beginning in 1986. Then In 1987 tobacco plants that were resistant to insects were introduced.
Wiki summarizes the progress as follows:
The People’s Republic of China was the first country to allow commercialized transgenic plants, introducing a virus-resistant tobacco in 1992, which was withdrawn in 1997.:3 The first genetically modified crop approved for sale in the U.S., in 1994, was the FlavrSavr tomato. It had a longer shelf life, because it took longer to soften after ripening. In 1994, the European Union approved tobacco engineered to be resistant to the herbicide bromoxynil, making it the first commercially genetically engineered crop marketed in Europe.
In 1995, Bt Potato was approved by the US Environmental Protection Agency, making it the country’s first pesticide producing crop. In 1995 canola with modified oil composition (Calgene), Bt maize (Ciba-Geigy), bromoxynil-resistant cotton (Calgene), Bt cotton (Monsanto), glyphosate-resistant soybeans (Monsanto), virus-resistant squash (Asgrow), and additional delayed ripening tomatoes (DNAP, Zeneca/Peto, and Monsanto) were approved. As of mid-1996, a total of 35 approvals had been granted to commercially grow 8 transgenic crops and one flower crop (carnation), with 8 different traits in 6 countries plus the EU. In 2000, Vitamin A-enriched golden rice was developed, though as of 2016 it was not yet in commercial production. In 2013 the leaders of the three research teams that first applied genetic engineering to crops, Robert Fraley, Marc Van Montagu and Mary-Dell Chilton were awarded the World Food Prize improving the “quality, quantity or availability” of food in the world.
Note Wiki references golden rice. My blog “Is Greenpeace Behind Destruction of Field Trials of Golden Rice?” discusses Enviromentalism gone wild below:
“The Hellen Keller International organization says the around 670,000 children world-wide will die each year from vitamin A deficiency and about 350,000 will go blind from the lack of vitamin A. It is reported that one cup of Golden Rice will supply half an adult’s recommended daily intake. The International Rice Research Institute reports that: “The rice has been modified by adding extra genes that turn on the plant’s ability to produce beta-carotene, which humans can convert into vitamin A.”
Enviromental organizations are preventing the growing of this rice because –they say— its a GMC!!!
Economic benefits have been wide spread. From Wiki:
According to the International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications (ISAAA), in 2014 approximately 18 million farmers grew biotech crops in 28 countries; about 94% of the farmers were resource-poor in developing countries. 53% of the global biotech crop area of 181.5 million hectares was grown in 20 developing countries. PG Economics comprehensive 2012 study concluded that GM crops increased farm incomes worldwide by $14 billion in 2010, with over half this total going to farmers in developing countries.
From Wiki the observations regarding yields of GMCs:
In 2014, the largest review yet concluded that GM crops’ effects on farming were positive. The meta-analysis considered all published English-language examinations of the agronomic and economic impacts between 1995 and March 2014 for three major GM crops: soybean, maize, and cotton. The study found that herbicide-tolerant crops have lower production costs, while for insect-resistant crops the reduced pesticide use was offset by higher seed prices, leaving overall production costs about the same.
Yields increased 9% for herbicide tolerance and 25% for insect resistant varieties. Farmers who adopted GM crops made 69% higher profits than those who did not. The review found that GM crops help farmers in developing countries, increasing yields by 14 percentage points.
This summary shows that GMC are grown world-wide, experienced improved yield and profit. Interestingly developing countries are gaining the most. Pesticide use is down. And the consensus of the scientific community is that GMC pose no risk to human health.
Looks like GMCs are a success.