The use of genetic engineering techniques in agriculture and food production is seen as an exciting and valuable development by many. They welcome the improvements in production efficiency that they bring to farmers and the enhanced nutritional value that can benefit consumers. Others however, have objected strongly, raising environmental, food safety, and ethical concerns. A majority of people in Western Europe, Japan and Australia for example want to see labels on products that contain genetically modified organisms (GMOs), while the most extreme opponents want to see genetically modified (GM) crops completely excluded from production and consumption in their country.
The emergence of genetically modified foods has generated a variety of policy reactions in different countries. The use of GM crop varieties is currently most widespread in the corn and soybean sectors. The first generation GM crops improved agronomic traits such as resistance to pests and diseases, and tolerance of specific chemical herbicides. The development of plants with such attributes aimed at increasing farmer profitability, typically by reducing input requirements and hence costs. Later generations of GM crops have focused on breeding for attributes desired by consumers.
In 2014, a record 181.5 million hectares of GM crops were grown globally, an increase of more than six million hectares from 2013, according to the International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-Biotech Applications (ISAAA). With the addition of Bangladesh, a total of 28 countries grew GM crops during the year. The 20 developing and eight industrial countries where GM crops are produced represent more than 60% of the world’s population. Since the first introduction in 1996, more than 10 food and fibre GM crops have been approved and commercialised around the world. These range from major commodities such as maize, soybean and cotton, to fruits and vegetables like papaya, eggplant and most recently, potato. The traits of these crops address common issues affecting crop benefits to the consumer and production rates for farmers, including drought tolerance, insect and disease resistance, herbicide tolerance and increased nutrition and food quality.
This is an extract of the full article published in International Pest Control – March/April 2016 issue.
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Author: Martin Redbond