Have GMOs lived up to their promises? I think it depends on who you ask. There’s many farmers all over the world that happily spend more for traited seed, and who will even use the black market to get seed if it’s not available. Clearly, they say yes, GMOs are worth it. However, answering this question also depends on what promises have been made.
We’ve gotta start somewhere, so let’s look at the claims put forth by BIO, the Biotechnology Industry Organization (h/t Tom Philpott for the link). The source for these claims is the BIO report Healing, Fueling, Feeding: How Biotechnology Is Enriching Your Life (food starts on page 55). BIO claims:
Biotech improves crop insect resistance, enhances crop herbicide tolerance and facilitates the use of more environmentally sustainable farming practices. Biotech is helping to feed the world by:
- Generating higher crop yields with fewer inputs;
- Lowering volumes of agricultural chemicals required by crops-limiting the run-off of these products into the environment;
- Using biotech crops that need fewer applications of pesticides and that allow farmers to reduce tilling farmland;
- Developing crops with enhanced nutrition profiles that solve vitamin and nutrient deficiencies;
- Producing foods free of allergens and toxins such as mycotoxin; and
- Improving food and crop oil content to help improve cardiovascular health.
Have any of these things really happened? Let’s look at them one by one. Rather than trying to cram it all into one post, I’ll give each topic its own post. When the series is over, I’ll come back and update this post with the verdict.
- The Promise of GMOs: Nutrition looks at claims related to enhanced nutrition profiles, allergens, and crop oil content.
- The Promise of GMOs: Mycotoxins looks at the claim that biotechnology is helping to feed the world by producing foods free of toxins such as mycotoxins.
- The Promise of GMOs: Conservation Tillage looks at the claim that biotechnology is helping to reduce the need for tilling the land.
- The Promise of GMOs: Herbicides looks at the claim that biotechnology is helping to reduce the quantity and environmental impacts of agriculture.