Genetically modified organisms, or GMOs, are one of those topics everyone seems to have a vocal opinion on: depending on who you talk to, they’re either the key to feeding our growing population, or the ultimate threat to society.
Now, a two-year analysis of almost 900 journal articles on the past 30 years of genetically modified, or engineered (GE), crop use has weighed in on the debate,concluding that there is no evidence that GE crops are unsafe to eat, or do damage to the environment.
But it also showed little support for claims that they’ve significantly boosted crop yields or improved economic outcomes for farmers, suggesting that we’re still a long way off finding the best way to use and disseminate the technology.
The 400-page report was conducted by 20 scientists, and commissioned by the US National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine, as part of an attempt to figure out how to regulate crops and GM food going forward.
Whether you like it or not, the reality is that since the 1980s, scientists have been genetically modifying crops to enhance their favourable characteristics, such asvitamin content, yield, and/or pest-resistance.
This is simply a faster and more precise version of selective breeding, which humans have been doing for millennia – dramatically altering what food crops look like in the process.
But because many of these GM seeds contained all-new DNA code that could, in theory, be patented and sold back to poor farmers at a higher cost, many have been concerned about their presence in our farms and fields. Not to mention the fact that they haven’t been around long enough for longitudinal studies to be conducted on the long-term effects they have on our health or the surrounding environment.
Despite that, a lot of research over the years has concluded that GM crops are safe and can greatly benefit humanity – but that’s done little to relieve the public’s concern.
Which is one of the reasons that this new analysis was commissioned. It looked into several aspects of the debate, and trawled more than 900 articles, along with hours of expert testimony and public submissions, to come to the following conclusions: