For anyone who has ever wondered about biotech crops and genetically modified crops, this article will help you find all the answers you need on the subject. It details everything you need to know about bioengineering and its resulting products known as GMOs. So read on.
Biotech crops, what are they?
The definition and description of what GMOs are, varys among different individuals. But broadly, they can be described as foods that are produced from other crops whose DNA has been genetically altered either by a process known as gene splicing or by expressing dormant genes of the crop being modified.
Genetic modification is usually conducted laboratory using bioengineering techniques. Take note, however, that there are people who argue that crops produced through conventional breeding are no different from those produced through genetic modification. These crops can thus be considered as GMOs.
Where did genetically modified crops originate?
Based on history, the first biotech crop was the Flavr Savr tomato developed by Calgene Inc. the tomato was submitted for approval to the United States, FDA in the year 1994. Luckily, the tomato was approved the same year and subsequently introduced into the market immediately after that.
Since then, the production and use of GM crops increased rapidly such that by 2008, the number of foods that were successfully approved by the FDA stood at a whopping 111 food products. These included soybeans, corn, and cotton.
Today, there is a variety of GM crops produced and sold in our grocery stores. You can find a potato, flax seeds, papaya, rice, wheat, squash, canola, sugar beet among other crops produced through this type of modification.
Research even shows that about ¾ of the products we consume today contain ingredients from genetically modified crops, these include bread, cereal, soft drinks, etc.
The pros of GM crops
Genetically modifying crops has lots of benefits.
GM foods have been determined to be safe for consumption by several foods and drink regulatory organizations around the world including the FDA.
Biotechnology which is used to produce GMOs has enabled the production of crops that are more resistant to pests and insects. This means that farmers specialized in GM crops enjoy reduced farming costs since no herbicides, pesticides and excessive tilling is needed.
Another good thing about biotech crops is that they help increase ripening time. Regarding this, plants are allowed more time to ripen on the vine bringing in a better and fresher taste. Such slower ripening crops include tomatoes, potatoes, and corn. And by the way, these crops that ripen slowly on the vine usually remain fresher for longer. This is thus an added benefit for people who farm perishable goods for commercial purposes.
Besides, when plants are more resistant to insects, pests, and severe weather conditions they often result in higher yields. This, in turn, enhances food security not just locally but also at a global scale.
It is worth noting that crop bioengineering has reduced the number of pesticides and insecticides used in farming. This is something that has contributed significantly to a cleaner water supply, better health, and an improved environment.
Concerns about biotech crops
Several arguments about the safety of these crops to the health and well-being of human life have been raised. These arguments are that genetically modified crops have the potential for allergic reactions, an adverse effect on the environment and that they are ethically wrong.
Scientists, environmentalist, and organic food advocates have championed against the production of GM foods. This according to several reports by these groups is because GM crops tend to affect other crops within the vicinity in a negative way. They argue that this happens in cross-pollination where pollens from GM crops are transferred to non-GM crops thus affecting their organic purity.
Well, the controversy surrounding genetically modified crops is something that can’t be entirely ignored as there is some truth in them. Nonetheless, we can’t also dispute the fact that biotech crops are beneficial to both humans and the environment at large.
These crops have the power to repel destructive insects and pests while at the same time producing more yields. They are arguably cheaper, environmentally friendly, and some are healthier than their natural counterparts.
Currently, organic food items are scarce because of their high costs and technicality of production. What is available of organic crops is just not enough to sustain the population. GM foods thus help to balance out this equation as they are in abundance.
At this point, it is only fair to state that genetically modified crops are the foods of the future. GM foods are here to stay since several industries, i.e., medical, fuel, food, and many other sectors largely depend on GM crops for most of their productions. Their benefits just don’t seem to end as genetic modification continues to grow in popularity.
We can bet that shortly, GMOs will be more common than they are now.