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Wednesday, October 20, 2021

Genetically engineered crops show benefits

Genetically engineered crops (GEC) are continuing to help the environment and society, according to the National Resource Council’s recently released report.

Their findings indicate that most farmers have been able to attain higher yields, lower production costs and reduce usage of pesticides on crops.

Pam Ronald, a plant pathologist at UC Davis, believes that GECs are a significant asset to farmers, but are not the only thing necessary for society and the environment.

“Genetically engineered seeds are just a tool, not a magical solution,” she said.

Ronald, who has been working with GECs for over 25 years, agreed with the report’s statements regarding GECs ability to produce higher yields, lower production costs, reduce insecticide usage, reduce soil erosion and improve worker safety.

She said that GECs are sustainable and that there have been reports released proving this to be the case.

“Seeds need to be combined with proper ecological farming practices in order to maximize sustainability,” Ronald said.

There are instances throughout the world where GECs have been responsible for positively contributing to sustainable practices.

“BT [Bacillus Thuriengiensis] cotton has been very effective in insect resistance,” Ronald said.

According to Ronald, BT cotton and papayas -instances where she claimed GECs helped revitalize crops – serve as two examples of the benefits and sustainability that GECs provide.

Genetic engineering can be used as a breeding tool, except that it is just a more advanced one. Roland believes that GECs can also be very useful to under-developed countries, emphasizing their need for something to depend upon.

“Countries need seed that they can save, and get to their national programs,” Roland said.

Martina McGloughlin, director of the UC Systemwide Biotechnology Research and Education Program, supports the sustainability and benefits of GECs in many of her writings.

“The tools of biotechnology can contribute to the improvement of food and nutritional security, enhance production efficiency, promote sustainable agriculture, reduce environmental impact, empower the rural sector through income generation and reduce economic inequity,” she said. “They do so by increasing crop productivity, reducing crop damage and food loss, improving food safety and enhancing specialty crop production at an affordable cost.”

McGloughlin pointed to evidence gathered by several agencies that proves GECs to be unharmful.

“The consensus of scientific opinion and evidence is that biotechnology-derived foods and feeds present no new or unusual dangers to the environment or human health,” she said.

Continued learning about the possibilities of agriculture through technology will provide scientists with new ways of presenting benefits, McGloughlin hopes.

“The increase in our basic knowledge of plant metabolism during the coming decades will provide the tools necessary to more effectively modify the nutritional content of crops to have a positive effect on many aspects of human and animal health,” McGloughlin said.

UC Davis, one of the best agricultural research universities, remains committed to discovering new ways for GECs to benefit society and the environment.

For more information on genetically engineered crops, go to national-academies.org.

ERIC C. LIPSKY can be reached at campus@theaggie.org. 

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