Genetically Engineered Crops: The facts you wanted to know about

The debate over genetically modified foods is fierce and ongoing. Especially when 19 out of 28 countries of European Union (EU), along with large regions of UK and viagra pas cher Belgium, have said ‘no’ to genetically modified (GM) crops.
On the one hand, proponents argue that genetically modified foods are perfectly safe, opponents contend that not enough research has been done. It's good to have a look at both the sides.
It was 30 years ago that scientists first published the news that they could place functional foreign genes into plant cells. The invention promised to launch an exciting phase in biotechnology, in which desired traits and abilities could be introduced into plants used for food, fibres and even fuel [1].
GM production, Global picture
Data provided by the International Service Acquisition of Agri-biotech Aplications, courtesy @Nature.com
Genetically modified (GM) crops promised to make life easier and nature’s gift even more desirable
In many places where they are planted, these GM crops have replaced conventional planting almost entirely. Yields and profits have increased, farmers have been generally happy to adopt the transgenic seeds and the technology has even made good on some of its promises to help the environment by reducing the amount and variety of pesticides needed [1].
GM Soya bean, maize (corn) and canola crops accounted for nearly all GM crops grown in 2012
Popular crops
GM Soya bean, maize (corn) and canola crops accounted for nearly all GM crops grown in 2012, courtesy @Nature.com
Of some 30 traits that are currently engineered into plants for commercial use, the most popular are those that confer herbicide tolerance, insect resistance or both traits together
Popular traits
Of some 30 traits that are currently engineered into plants for commercial use, the most popular are those that confer herbicide tolerance, insect resistance or both traits together, courtesy @Nature.com
Genetically Modified Foods [2, 3, 4] Description
Soybeans Over half of the world's 2007 soybean crop (59%) is genetically modified, a higher percentage than for any other crop.
Maize Maize is the only GM crop that is currently being grown in Europe. Maize is used primarily for animal feed and is also an important raw material for the starch industry.
Potatoes GM potatoes with modified starch composition could soon be grown in Europe
Rapeseed Rapeseed has been made to be more resistant to pesticides and also to be erucic acid-free.
Jatropha Jatropha is an inedible plant whose seeds produce a liquid like palm oil that could be used for biofuel. Though biodiesel extracted from the seeds of jatropha is of high-quality, the plant is not farmer-friendly.
Cotton GM cotton is grown primarily in India, China and the United States. China is currently expanding its production of GM cotton, which could allow for drastic reductions in pesticide use.
Sugar Cane Sugar cane has been altered to be resistant to pesticides. Modified sugar cane cannot be marketed successfully as the public has such a low opinion of it.
Cassava Virus-resistant cassava that contains a day's worth of vitamins, proteins, and minerals. Team plan to field test it in two African countries within the next two years.
Flax Altered to resist herbicides, flax is in many products that contain flax oil and seed.
Papaya Papayas have been modified to be more virus resistant.
Tobacco A tobacco has been altered that contains very little nicotine.

Facts from real studies:

  • Bangladesh is in the midst of a pilot project promising cheap food for the masses, with the "BT Brinjal" GM aubergine as its flagship pest-resistant crop. But environmental charities are flagging up concerns about long-term health effects and say that multinational firms are taking advantage of poor farmers [10].
  • An article published in the peer-reviewed Journal of Animal Science concludes feeding livestock diets that contain genetically engineered (GE) crops has no impact on the health or productivity of those animals [5]
  • The claim that GM crops is linked to cancer came out in 2012 study by Gilles-Eric Seralini. Rats fed with corn that had been genetically modified to be resistant to the herbicide Roundup diet were found more likely to develop tumors than others [6].
  • Batch of soybeans that contained 2S albumin protein from the Brazil nut led to allergic outbreaks. The 2S albumin is probably a major Brazil-nut allergen and the transgenic soybeans analyzed in the study contained this protein. Study showed that an allergen from a food known to be allergenic can be transferred into another food by genetic engineering [7].
  • Salinity stress limits crop yield affecting plant growth and restricting the use of land. A gene from the grey mangrove, Avicennia marina, has been genetically implanted into a tobacco plant, making it able to tolerate salt stress as well as showing tolerance to other ionic stresses [8].
  • Rice is a staple food in many countries, particularly in Asia, but does not contain Vitamin A or its immediate precursors. By inserting two genes from daffodils and one gene from a bacterial species into rice plants, Swiss researchers have produced rice capable of synthesizing beta-carotene, the precursor of Vitamin A [9].
  • People may soon be getting vaccinated for diseases like hepatitis B and cholera by simply taking a bite of banana. Researchers have successfully engineered bananas, potatoes, lettuce, carrots and tobacco to produce vaccines, but they say bananas are the ideal production and delivery vehicle [9].
  • 1999 laboratory study published in Nature, in USA, revealed that pollen from GM crops, leads to a high mortality rate among butterflies, caterpillars, and other insects that find them on the grass and in the air where winds blow them. Toxics released into soil by GM crops kill the soil bacteria and other living organisms in the soil yet they are essential to the integral soil health for plants to grow naturally [11

Word of Caution:

GM crops offer farmers in developing countries an environmentally sustainable way to improve food security. But opponents point out that introducing GE seeds to developing countries makes local farmers dependent upon large multinational corporations like Monsanto who could push those farmers into a cycle of debt, which is bad for food security and local farmers. Considerable opposition to GM crops does exist and scientists must engage with the public to a much greater extent to ensure that the subject is debated rationally. This opposition is having many serious effects, not least because many developing countries that could benefit from the technology will not take it up as long as they believe that there remain significant areas of concern and that they will not be able to export produce to the EU market. Blanket conclusions that the technology is a success or failure lack the right level of proof at this stage. It’s an evolving story in world, and we have not yet reached a definitive conclusion.
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