For 10,000 years farmers have intentionally changed the
genetic makeup of all the crops we grow to produce hardier crops
that tastes better, resists disease and is easier to grow all
while taking up less land. Today, every commercially available
vegetable, fruit and grain has been altered by human hands,
even those coming from organic and/or heirloom seeds.
In the 20th century, the demand increased for certain
traits in crops. Many people around the world became concerned
about the growing use of chemicals and inputs needed to improve
yields and wanted to reduce the impact of agriculture on the
environment. Hand-in-hand with this concern was the growing need
to feed more people as the world’s population grew greatly. Many
people worried about a coming environmental disaster. In
response, academia and scientists at companies began intense
research to use biotechnology to produce crops with specific
traits to answer these concerns. The result has been seeds that
yield more crops, have less impact on the environment and
require less use of inputs.
- The planting of GMOs has resulted in a 379 million lbs.
reduction in pesticide applications in the U.S. from
1996-2009, which has saved farmers time and money, while
improving our environment.
- BT Sweet corn can be grown with up to 85 percent
less insecticide compared to conventional sweet corn.
- Widespread use of BT corn has suppressed the
devastating European Corn Borer (ECB) so well that the pest
no longer threatens U.S. non- GMO corn crops.
- In 2009, 65 percent of U.S. soybeans grown used
conservation tillage, resulting in 93 percent decline in
soil erosion and preserving an estimated one billion tons of
top soil. This reduction, in part, was due to GM soybeans,
which are resistant to herbicides.
Researchers and scientists are developing new biotech
varieties or hybrids for specific reasons:
- Improving environmental stewardship while
maintaining yields on less land with fewer inputs; in
particular, drought tolerant corn is being introduced to the
- Improving nutrition (for example, healthier soybean oils
that eliminate trans fats and contain increased levels of
- Making foods safer (for example, removing allergens)
- Disease resistance
- Pest and herbicide resistance
- Better shopping and handling experience (for example,
fruits that ripen at the right time have better flavor and
remain fresh longer)
Because of these benefits and traits, biotech has the
potential to provide more healthy and plentiful food for a
growing world population. The future may not hold just more
yields on less land with fewer environmental impacts, but it may
also include the sorghum genus with increased Vitamin A, iron,
zinc and improved protein quality, or broccoli with increased