Unlocking Hidden Potential

Biotechnology and GMOs

 

Plant breeding is as old as agriculture itself and farmers and scientists have long used plant breeding techniques to produce plants with beneficial characteristics, such as drought tolerance, making use of the plant’s natural genetic diversity. 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).

Developing GM Seeds

Scientists work to identify genes that have the potential to improve a crop. When they identify a potentially beneficial gene, plant scientists make a copy of the desired gene and insert it into a plant’s DNA. 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. On average, it takes 13 years and costs $130 million to bring a GM seed to market.

Step 1

The desired trait (like insect resistance or drought tolerance) is identified in a natural organism.

Step 2

A copy of the gene responsible for the desired trait is transferred into a plant.

Step 3

The new plant is tested to ensure that it is safe for people, animals, and the environment.

Step 4

After years of additional testing and 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.

  • Alfalfa 
  • Apple 
  • Canola 
  • Corn (Maize) 
  • Cotton
  • Eggplant 
  • Papaya 
  • Pineapple 
  • Potato 
  • Soybeans
  • Squash
  • Sugar Beets
  • Sugarcane

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 
  • Tangelos 
  • Broccolini 
  • Baby carrots

Regardless of whether they are GMOs, practically all produce in a grocery store is the result of breeding and modification by humans to improve taste, quality and utility, and to meet consumer preferences.

Are GMOs Safe?

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.”1

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.”2

You can find more information on GMO safety at Farm Meets Table.

Providing Farmers with More Choice

Every field and growing environment is different, each with specific challenges for farmers. When used in combination with other modern agriculture practices, GMOs provide farmers with another tool to address their specific challenges while preserving natural resources.

1

http://www.who.int/topics/food_genetically_modified/en/

2

http://nas-sites.org/ge-crops/

Learn More About Innovation at the Crop Science Division

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