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Farmers need innovation not only to grow enough, but to grow better for our planet and its people. We have leading research & development capabilities in biotechnology to deliver tailored solutions to farmers faster than ever before.
Plant breeding is as old as agriculture itself. Farmers and scientists have long used plant breeding techniques, making use of the plant's natural genetic diversity, to improve beneficial characteristics in plants such as increased yield, drought tolerance or improved taste for example. In the 1980s, scientists began using biotechnology, a method of transferring beneficial genes directly into a plant, which allowed for greater efficiency and new opportunities for improving crops. This process is called genetic modification, and the result is a genetically modified organism (GMO), or genetically modified seed (GM seed). The production of these products has accelerated the delivery of more resilient, productive crops.
Developing GM seeds
The process of bringing a GM seed from initial testing through market availability is complex, requiring significant investments in time and resources. On average, it takes 13 years and costs $130 million to bring a GM seed to market. The process involves several steps, once scientists have identified genes that have the potential to improve a crop.
The desired trait (such as insect resistance or drought tolerance) is identified in a natural organism.
A copy of the gene responsible for the desired trait is transferred into a plant.
The new plant is tested to ensure that it is safe for people, animals, and the environment. Each new GM (genetically modified) seed undergoes years of testing to ensure that it brings value to farmers and is as safe as its non-GM counterpart.
Only after rigorous reviews by scientists and government regulators around the world, seeds from the new plant are approved to be made available to farmers.
Benefits of growing GM crops
If you’re wondering why many farmers choose to grow GM crops, it helps to consider the challenges they face:
- Using natural resources more efficiently
Some GM corn crops can help protect harvests in water-limited conditions and drought-stricken areas. Other GMOs can promote the practice of no-till farming, which helps keep moisture and nutrients in the soil. No-till also means fields require fewer passes with machinery, resulting in a reduction in fuel demands and greenhouse gases emitted.
- Fighting pests and disease
Several GM crops have been modified to be resistant to insects and plant-specific diseases that can devastate a field. Plants modified with traits that protect roots from insect damage use water more efficiently than those with damaged roots.
- Conserving natural habitats
GM seeds can help farmers around the world meet the increasing demand to grow enough by helping them make the most of their existing arable land, thus enabling them to preserve nearby habitats.
Which crops are GMOs?
GMOs are imported, grown, and/or field-tested in more than 75 countries. While regulations regarding GMOs vary from country to country, there are currently 13 crops with GM varieties commercially available around the world.
- Corn (Maize)
- Sugar Beets
Some other foods you might recognize in the grocery store are the result of traditional plant breeding and are not GMOs:
- Seedless watermelon
- Grape tomatoes
- Baby carrots
Safety and Transparency in Biotechnology
At Bayer, we are passionate about achieving food security and safety, healthy nutrition and well-being for all, and preserving ecosystems in line with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. We place the highest priority on the safety of our products and are committed to transparency and dialogue.
GM seeds have been safety tested more than any other crop in the history of agriculture. Regulatory authorities around the world have concluded that GM crops are as safe for humans, animals, and the environment as non-GM crops.
World Health Organization
“GM foods currently available on the international market have passed safety assessments and are not likely to present risks for human health. In addition, no effects on human health have been shown as a result of the consumption of such foods by the general population in the countries where they have been approved.”
National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine
“…the study committee found no substantiated evidence of a difference in risks to human health between currently commercialized genetically engineered (GE) crops and conventionally bred crops, nor did it find conclusive cause-and-effect evidence of environmental problems from the GE crops.”
Providing farmers with more choice
By harnessing new developments in tailored solutions, our innovation focuses on growing enough on each acre, reducing the environmental impact of farming, and enabling smarter decision-making and more efficient farming. In our efforts to truly shape agriculture to benefit farmers, consumers, and the planet, we believe it is our responsibility to ensure that our innovations are made available to farmers large and small all over the world.