Advantages & disadvantages of GM crops

Written by dan taylor | 13/05/2017
Advantages & disadvantages of GM crops
Genetically modified crops produce more food, but some worry it could upset delicate ecosystems. (Jupiterimages/ Images)

The topic of genetically modifying crops, which involve changing their basic DNA through genetic engineering, is a controversial one. Some point to the benefits of such crops and suggest that this technology could solve all sorts of food problems if used properly. Others argue that they're rife with risk. GM crops have a number of advantages and disadvantages.

More Food

Genetically modified foods produce higher crop yields, and so some have proposed it as a solution to solving hunger in developing countries. Also, although the seeds cost more up front, the yield is so great that such crops are cheaper to produce in the long run.

Reduced Need for Pesticides

Farmers do not need to use as much pesticides and herbicides on the crops, thereby reducing harm to the environment. They also decrease the amount of manpower needed to grow the crops.

Better Food Quality

The food quality is better. Genetic engineers can cause a fruit or vegetable to stay fresher for longer, extending its shelf life. They can also be engineered to withstand years of drought or other weather extremes while still providing a good crop yield. Engineers can also add essential vitamins to the food that are lacking.

Greater Allergy Risk

Allergies present a risk in genetically modifying foods. If engineers take a gene from one food and use it in another, it could trigger an allergy in the person who is allergic to the first food and didn't realise it was in the second as well. Mixing genes across species has the potential to create new allergens as well.

Destabilisation of Ecosystem

Genetically modifying foods could harm other organisms and upset the balance in the ecosystem. If engineers eliminate a pest from the crop, it could remove a food source for an animal. The GM crops could also be toxic for organisms.

Creation of New Diseases

Some modification involves bacteria and viruses, so some people worry that this engineering could create new diseases. Also, pests could absorb the gene in the genetically modified crop and become resistant to sprays and other means of eliminating them.

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