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Genetic Engineering

What are the benefits?

Genetic engineering may enable society to create plants which can withstand extremes of climate, for example drought resistance and soil conditions such as salt tolerance. We may be able to grow crops in areas like scrub, deserts and tundra and for longer periods of the year.

We may be able to produce crops with higher yields, higher nutrient levels, a longer shelf life, better taste and any desired characteristic imaginable; grains with more protein; strawberries with more sugar; and coffee beans without the caffeine. Plants could be engineered to produce detergents, enzymes, vaccines and other pharmaceuticals. Animals could be modified to produce human milk, blood, tissues or whole organs for human transplant. GMOs could be designed for any practical purpose.

Scientists have created a GM tree that grows faster, requires less energy and fewer toxic chemicals to turn it into paper, than conventional trees. A species of black cottonwood in the US, which is similar to poplar, has been developed with a view to growing it for conversion to biomass, which can be used for energy or structural materials.

The biotechnology industry argues that GM crops are more efficient than conventional crops because they will not require such a high input of chemicals and other inputs. They say GM crops will eventually reduce in price and farmers will be able to produce food more cheaply.

Some types of GMOs produce pesticide within their own cells, and it is contained within the plant. Crops are able to protect themselves from insects and disease without being sprayed so intensively.

If farmers are able to grow food without large quantities of expensive and toxic chemical inputs, this will benefit them financially and it will benefit the environment. We may no longer have to put up with toxic chemicals poisoning our soil, leaching into ground water and entering the food chain.

Feed the world

Genetic manipulation is held as a solution to feed a hungry world. But yields from GM crops have so far been unremarkable. Feeding the world is not a technical problem it is an economic problem. Most of the hungry are poor and cannot afford the food. Developing nations are forced to grow export crops and products like tobacco, tea and coffee, rather than traditional foods, to pay back loans from major world banks.


So far we have seen no benefit of GMOs to consumers, from either a nutritional, health or financial perspective.

Spin offs

An increase in GM crops over the next few years may bring a corresponding change in proportions of non-GM crops. Although organic food is a very small proportion of the food market, it has been growing over the years because of concerns over the safety of chemicals. Likewise, fears over the safety of genetically engineered foods may result in organic farmers expanding their share of market considerably over the next few years, while intensive chemical farming may decline. If there is less demand for GM crops than predicted by the biotechnology companies, their prices will fall and farmers will not be able to afford to grow them. More of an equal balance between GM, chemical and organic may emerge.

Clever countries will take advantage of the market opportunities of growing only organic and non-GM crops. Europeans are cautious about GMOs and import a lot of food. If the US do not separate their GM crops from their non-GM crops, they are going to lose their sales to Europe to organic and non-GMO growers in other countries.

There are obvious benefits with GMOs. Rather than take a blanket rejection of all GMOs, it is hoped that after appropriate testing, each GMO will be considered on its own merits.

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