- Open Access
Genetically modified crops: the truth unveiled
© Gruissem; licensee BioMed Central. 2015
- Received: 11 December 2014
- Accepted: 26 January 2015
- Published: 23 February 2015
What has long been suspected is true: genetically modified (GM) crops do have real benefits for the environment and for the economic well-being of farmers. A meta-analysis of peer-reviewed journal articles and other literature not published in journals reveals that the adoption of GM crops reduces pesticide input and increases crop yields and farmers’ income. The results confirm earlier and smaller studies and therefore are not unexpected. But they are particularly welcome for significantly informing the public debate on GM crops.
- GM crops
- Insect resistance
- Herbicide tolerance
Since the market introduction of the genetically modified FLAVR SAVR tomato in 1994  and the successful sales of transparently labeled GM tomato paste by Safeway and Sainsbury supermarket chains from 1996 to 1999, GM crops and food have become the center of public controversy . Although FLAVR SAVR and the tomato paste have vanished from the supermarket shelves, in 2013, GM crops were grown on more than 175 million hectares globally, by millions of farmers , many of them in developing countries. However, this has not helped to build broad trust in the safety and environmental as well as the economic benefits of the fastest technology ever adopted by farmers in the history of agriculture . Despite numerous peer-reviewed scientific studies showing that GM crops and food are safe for the consumer and the environment [5-7], the exchange of words continues, often with unsubstantiated and misleading claims by nongovernmental organizations whose incomes rely on fueling public skepticism. Nevertheless, after a large-scale study that found no impact of GM feedstuffs on livestock populations , John Entine in the magazine Forbes recently declared ‘The debate about GMO safety is over’ . But is the GM crop debate over? While this may be true among scientists, arguments persist in public debates that GM crops are harming the environment and hurting farmers economically, especially in developing countries. The reason for these lingering perceptions, especially in Europe, is that a large-scale statistical and scientific assessment (meta-analysis) of the literature to provide the necessary factual information on the impacts of GM crops in agricultural production was missing.
The meta-analysis of the impacts of GM crops provides welcome new facts that cannot be ignored. The results confirm and extend earlier and smaller studies that already reported benefits of GM crops based on existing farm-level impact data for GM crops, for example, [12,13] or focusing on small-holder farming households in selected countries . One can only hope that the collective evidence for the beneficial impacts of GM crops will now enable a more informed and rational debate. Even if opposition and false claims continue to spur public skepticism, farmers must be allowed to choose and grow the crops - GM or non-GM - that improve their economic situation and help them to contribute to global food security.
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