In my opinion this technology is the most powerful yet invented by humankind, and our enthusiasm overwhelms good judgment and respectful caution. I am euphoric about the new insights I can teach in my genetics classes. Examples of different genetic interactions arrive with each new journal issue. Identifying similar genes in vastly different organisms and determining their effects has been beyond the capabilities of traditional genetic analysis.
Advertisement In Brief The vast majority of the research on genetically modified GM crops suggests that they are safe to eat and that they have the potential to feed millions of people worldwide who currently go hungry. Yet not all criticisms of GM are so easily rejected, and pro-GM scientists are often dismissive and even unscientific in their rejection of the counterevidence.
A careful analysis of the risks and benefits argues for expanded deployment and safety testing of GM crops. Robert Goldberg sags into his desk chair and gestures at the air.
He is expressing despair at the relentless need to confront what he sees as bogus fears over the health risks of genetically modified GM crops. Particularly frustrating to him, he says, is that this debate should have ended decades ago, when researchers produced a stream of exonerating evidence: But now anyone in this field knows the genome is not a static environment.
Inserted genes can be transformed by several different means, and it can happen generations later. Williams concedes that he is among a tiny minority of biologists raising sharp questions about the safety of GM crops. But he says this is only because the field of plant molecular biology is protecting its interests.
Funding, much of it from the companies that sell GM seeds, heavily favors researchers who are exploring ways to further the use of genetic modification in agriculture. He says that biologists who point out health or other risks associated with GM crops—who merely report or defend experimental findings that imply there may be risks—find themselves the focus of vicious attacks on their credibility, which leads scientists who see problems with GM foods to keep quiet.
Whether Williams is right or wrong, one thing is undeniable: To researchers such as Goldberg, however, the persistence of fears about GM foods is nothing short of exasperating. When we look carefully at the evidence for both sides and weigh the risks and benefits, we find a surprisingly clear path out of this dilemma.
Benefits and worries The bulk of the science on GM safety points in one direction. Take it from David Zilberman, a U. Berkeley agricultural and environmental economist and one of the few researchers considered credible by both agricultural chemical companies and their critics.
He argues that the benefits of GM crops greatly outweigh the health risks, which so far remain theoretical. It has raised the output of corn, cotton and soy by 20 to 30 percent, allowing some people to survive who would not have without it.
If it were more widely adopted around the world, the price [of food] would go lower, and fewer people would die of hunger. The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization estimates that the world will have to grow 70 percent more food by just to keep up with population growth.
GM crops, Zilberman says, could produce higher yields, grow in dry and salty land, withstand high and low temperatures, and tolerate insects, disease and herbicides. Jen Christiansen Despite such promise, much of the world has been busy banning, restricting and otherwise shunning GM foods.
Nearly all the corn and soybeans grown in the U. Approval of a few new GM corn strains has been proposed there, but so far it has been repeatedly and soundly voted down. Throughout Asia, including in India and China, governments have yet to approve most GM crops, including an insect-resistant rice that produces higher yields with less pesticide.
In Africa, where millions go hungry, several nations have refused to import GM foods in spite of their lower costs the result of higher yields and a reduced need for water and pesticides. Kenya has banned them altogether amid widespread malnutrition. No country has definite plans to grow Golden Rice, a crop engineered to deliver more vitamin A than spinach rice normally has no vitamin Aeven though vitamin A deficiency causes more than one million deaths annually and half a million cases of irreversible blindness in the developing world.
Other Latin American countries are pushing away from the plants. And even in the U. In the U. The fear fueling all this activity has a long history.
The public has been worried about the safety of GM foods since scientists at the University of Washington developed the first genetically modified tobacco plants in the s.
In the mids, when the first GM crops reached the market, Greenpeace, the Sierra Club, Ralph Nader, Prince Charles and a number of celebrity chefs took highly visible stands against them.
Consumers in Europe became particularly alarmed: In Europe, skepticism about GM foods has long been bundled with other concerns, such as a resentment of American agribusiness.Nov 18, · Agricultural research news. From fertilizers and organic farming to maximizing crops and hybridization, read about advancements in agriculture.
RETRACTED: Long term toxicity of a Roundup herbicide and a Roundup-tolerant genetically modified maize. The Truth about Genetically Modified Food.
Proponents of genetically modified crops say the technology is the only way to feed a warming, increasingly populous world. The Truth about Genetically Modified Food. Proponents of genetically modified crops say the technology is the only way to feed a warming, increasingly populous world.
The Biotechnology Myths. The agrochemical corporations which control the direction and goals of agricultural innovation through biotechnology claim that genetic engineering will enhance the sustainability of agriculture by solving the very problems affecting conventional farming and will spare Third World farmers from low productivity, poverty and hunger (Molnar and Kinnucan , Gresshoft .
Genetically modified foods or GM foods, also known as genetically engineered foods, bioengineered foods, genetically modified organisms, or GMOs, are foods produced from organisms that have had changes introduced into their DNA using the methods of genetic engineering.