GM Crops — Why we should use them

GM Crops are a very controversial subject; many people look down on GM technology as “unhealthy” or “unnatural”. GM crops are the way forward, here is why.

GM biotechnology can improve food security. Food security exists when everyone has both physical and economic access to nutritious, safe and sufficient food. But how could these crops help better food security, especially in developing countries? These technologies can cause food crops to have higher yields and make them stronger against both abiotic and biotic stresses. Also, if more GM crops were commercialized impacts on food availability would be much bigger.

An example of a crop that could improve food security in Africa is Drought Tolerant Maize. Maize is one of the main food staples in Africa and as much as 90% of it is grown under rainfed conditions, where commonly the area suffers from frequent droughts. Insect Resistant/Drought Tolerant stacked hybrids could yield up to 20–30% more maize than other commercial hybrids under average drought; this results in two to five million additional metric tonnes of corn to feed 14–21 million people.

Another positive is that these GM technologies can help with immunity to pests. This immunity can further increase crop yields, reduce the use of pesticides and even increase household income for the farmers. An instance of this is Bt Cotton (Bt is short for Bacillus thuringiensis, which is a bacterium from which a certain gene is responsible for the production of an insecticidal toxin). This cotton is resistant to important insect pests such as cotton bollworms. Some studies that were carried out show that Bt cotton reduces chemical pesticide use and increases yields. Another example of insect ­resistance is Bt eggplant; eggplant is the poor man’s vegetable crop, known as “the queen of the vegetables”. This GM eggplant has been shown to reduce pesticide use, increase yields and improve the quality of the fruit.

Some people may argue that GM crops are unhealthy; but in contradiction GM technology can actually increase the nutrition in a crop, such as in “Golden Rice” which has an increased level of beta-carotene, which is used to synthesize Vitamin A in the human body, thanks to GM technologies. Also, many people see GM as a risky, unnatural mixing of genes from unrelated organisms; but, in fact, long-term research has shown that GM biotechnology, in itself, is not more risky than other conventional plant breeding technologies.

One last point is that GM technology in food crops can make food safer; this is shown in an experimental version of corn. This corn has a gene which causes it to deliver strands of RNA that silences toxin-producing genes in a type of fungus that frequently grows on this type of crop. The corn can police the Aspergillus fungus, which creates a carcinogenic toxin knows as aflatoxin on its own cobs. This toxin can cause liver disease and cancer. If this crop was commercialized it could stop or decrease the number of 4.5 billion people in developing countries that must eat these contaminated crops so as not to die of starvation.

In conclusion, we should use GM crops as they can improve food security (especially in developing countries), provide immunity to pests and save money. These technologies can save lives by making food more affordable, safer and more nutritious.


References

Quaim M, Kouser S (2013) Genetically Modified Crops and Food Security. PLoS ONE 8(6): e64879. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0064879 (http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0064879) Accessed 05/2017

James, Clive. 2014. Global Status of Commercialized Biotech/GM Crops: 2014. ISAAA Brief №49. ISAAA: Ithaca, NY. (http://www.isaaa.org/resources/publications/briefs/49/) Accessed 05/2017

Julia M. Diaz and Judith L. Fridovich-Keil. genetically modified organism (GMO). Encyclopædia Britannica, Encyclopædia Britannica, inc. November 28, 2016 (https://www.britannica.com/science/genetically-modified-organism) Accessed 05/2017

Susan Watts. 23 July 2014. Genetic moderation is needed to debate our food future. New Scientist (https://www.newscientist.com/article/mg22329794-400-genetic-moderation-is-needed-to-debate-our-food-future/) Accessed 05/2017

Chelsea Whyte. 10 March 2017. Maize engineered to silence deadly toxins in poisonous mould. New Scientist (https://www.newscientist.com/article/2124191-maize-engineered-to-silence-deadly-toxins-in-poisonous-mould/) Accessed 05/2017


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