Use of Genetic Engineering for Crop Modification
Genetically modified crops (GMCs, GM crops, or biotech crops) are plants used in agriculture, the DNA of which crop has been modified using genetic engineering techniques. The aim is to introduce a new trait to the plant which does not occur naturally in the species. Examples in food crops include resistance to certain pests, diseases, or environmental conditions, reduction of spoilage, or resistance to chemical treatments or improving the nutrient profile of the crop. Examples in non-food crops include production of pharmaceutical agents, bio-fuels, and other industrially useful goods, as well as for bio-remediation.
Farmers have widely adopted GM technology. According to ISAAA 2015 Annual Report, between 1996 and 2015, the total surface area of land cultivated with GM crops increased by a factor of 100, from 17,000 km 2 (4.2 million acres) 1,797,000 km 2 (444 million acres). 10% of the world’s arable land was planted with GM crops in 2010. In the US, by 2014, 94% of the planted area of soybeans, 96% of cotton and 93% of corn were genetically modified varieties. Use of GM crops expanded rapidly in developing countries, with about 18 million farmers growing 54% of worldwide GM crops by 2013.
There is a scientific consensus that currently available food derived from GM crops poses no greater risk to human health than conventional food, but that each GM food needs to be tested on a case-by-case basis before introduction. Members of the public are much less likely than scientists to perceive GM foods as safe. The legal and regulatory status of GM foods varies by country, with some nations banning or restricting them, and others permitting them with widely differing degrees of regulation.
However, opponents have objected to GM crops on several grounds, including environmental concerns, whether food produced from GM crops are safe, whether GM crops are needed to address the world’s food needs, and concerns raised by the fact these organisms are subject to intellectual property law.