Last week, I outlined some of the basic facts about GMOs. What they are, how we eat them, where they come from, etc. Even if you think you know a lot about GMOs, you should read it just as a refresher.
Today, I will try to highlight some of the pros of using GMOs as part of our food supply. I acknowledge at the outset that some of these facts are disputed by opponents, but I will get to those opinions next week. As with all issues, there are two sides to the story, and each side has numbers to back up what they say. I’m going to list some of the benefits of GMO crops and how being a GMO gives that benefit.
-Improved yields. This benefit comes from a variety of factors. Some GMO plants are made virus resistant, so less plants succumb to disease. Other plants are made more resistant to drought. One of the most common is plants that are engineered to be protected against insects. All of these lead to higher yields at harvest time – up to 22% according to one study. With a growing world population to feed, it is not hard to realize we need to be as efficient as possible in agriculture.
-Reduced chemical use. With the development of insect and herbicide resistant crops, farmers are able to use less chemicals or at least milder, more environmentally friendly chemicals on their plants. One study found that use of GMOs reduced chemical pesticide usage by 37%.
-Reduced greenhouse emissions and soil erosion. With the herbicide resistant crops, farmers are able to plow their soil less. This reduces carbon emissions from farm equipment and helps preserve the soil.
-Improved nutrient profile. None of these products are currently in the market. However, a few GM plants have been created to help with nutrient deficiencies worldwide. Golden Rice, for example, is rice that has been engineered to be high in beta-carotene, a nutrient often lacking in countries with rice dominated diets. It is hoped that this could help prevent blindness. Again, none of the products like Golden Rice are currently commercially available, but it is an area for expansion in the future.
-Improved profit for farmers. While here in the US we associate GMOS with “Big Ag” like Monsanto, most of the farmers who use GMO crops are in the developing world. They do not have huge farms. Many of them are women. Studies have shown that farmer profits can increase up to 68% with GMOs. As we try to lift developing countries out of poverty, increased profits for their population can be crucial in improving an economy and way of life.
Hopefully, this has opened your eyes to at least some of the possible benefits of using GMOs. Next week, I’ll go over the opposition. Happy eating!
Have any nutrition questions? Need help with meal planning or a special dietary need? Send your questions to me at kimberlykmarsh(at)gmail(dot)com, and I will answer them in upcoming posts!