GMO crops and foods may potentially be beneficial and have a positive impact in some ways
But, they may also potentially have drawbacks, and carry potential risks, concerns and uncertainties in other ways.
In this guide, we outline some of the potential range of pros and cons of GMO crops and foods, to get a better overall perspective on them.
You will also be able to find a range of impacts of GMO crops and foods on different areas of society, but we’ve also put together a separate guide with some specific impacts mentioned under the different areas (humans and human health, the environment and wildlife, the economy, and society and individuals generally.
Summary – Pros & Cons Of GMO Crops & Food
A potential list of pros and cons of GMO crops and foods might be (note that each one of these points is detailed in greater depth in the guide below):
May be modified for pest and insect resistance
May be modified for herbicide tolerance
May be modified for disease resistance
May be modified for drought resistance
May be modified for flood resistance
May be modified for enhanced nutrition, or to have a longer shelf life
May be modified to decrease browning and bruising
May be modified to help improve the biofuel manufacturing processes
Might lead to less nitrogen fertilizer use in some instances
May lead to less pesticide use in some instances
Might help address larger social and environmental issues
Might help produce higher yields, reduce pesticide use, and increase farmer profits
Might lead to more efficient use of agricultural land and prevent conversion of some existing land into agricultural land
Might contribute to poverty reduction and food security in developing countries
May lead to safer conditions for farm workers, and reduced health risks overall
May potentially less time and effort needing to be expended by farmers and farm workers for some activities
Several parties profit/benefit potentially from GMOs
Some types of modified rice varieties might lead to reduced emissions
May help increase the biodiversity and genetic base of some existing staple food crops
Some question the safety of the increased use of herbicides associated with increased GM seed use, but others say these questions are unfounded
The current scientific consensus is that GMOs carry no more risk to human health and the environment than conventional crops
Some studies specifically on transgenic crops indicate they might have fewer unintended consequences compared to non transgenic crops
GMO foods may be on par with organic foods in terms of nutrients and health risks
For some specific GM crops, insecticide use might be trending down
Some case studies on individual farms report beneficial results for GM cotton seeds
There’s potentially questions over the current research and studies on GMOs, as well as potential challenges when it comes independent research on GMOs
There’s potentially questions over whether the GMO regulation processes and framework involving testing, pre market review, approval and labeling is adequate in some countries
There’s potentially questions or at least uncertainties over how safe GMOs are to eat for humans, and possibly GM feed for livestock. This may particularly be the case over the long term, considering there’s reportedly not many long term study results currently available
Other issues, concerns and risks might exist with GMOs, and it’s questioned whether we actually need GMOs in the future
Other solutions might exist to address food production for a growing population
Other solutions might exist to address other large scale social and environmental issues
Some question the evidence that GMOs really provide specific benefits via their engineered traits
GMO companies might experience significant challenges in getting products to market, & commercially established, because of how much time the approval process takes. This might limit the scale and effectiveness of the technology in some ways
Research & development, & commercialization time spans & lead times can be lengthy
Money and resources put into GMOs could be put into other agricultural methods and technology, and some argue other methods and technology could be better or more effective in various ways
GM genes can spread, or transfer to wild organisms
A small number of large seed & chemical companies are tied to the use GM seeds (over conventional seeds)
A specific conflict of interest by GMO seed companies might be their ownership of herbicides that has grown in use significantly since the introduction of GMOs
Herbicides linked to GM seed use might have effects on soil, plants & animals
Farmers may experiences a range of problems, threats and risks by using GM seeds in the short and long term (especially if the seeds are property of the company supplying them, and they hold leverage over the farmers. Farmers lose their sovereignty and independence in this instance.)
There may be external political and economic reasons and pressures that heavily influence the use of GMOs in some countries compared to others (and politics in particular might be prioritized over what the science or the experts say)
Herbicide resistant GM crops may lead to an increase in the use of herbicides, and the development of super weeds
Some GM crops that are engineered for pest/weed resistance can still be lost to different weeds
Might reduce biodiversity in some ways
There’s debate that better farming results can be achieved via sustainable and organic farming (that don’t use GM seeds)
May cause gene transfer of antibiotic resistant bacteria
Transgenic organisms (with transferred DNA from another organism) may in some cases trigger an allergic reaction (caused by the transferred protein or genetic material)
May lead to the development of new diseases/pathogens
Some herbicides used on some GM crops have been linked to cancer development in animals
This is a generalized list of the potential pros and cons of GMO crops and food .
The final list of pros and cons of GMOs can be individual to the type of crop or food being grown, the geographical location they’re grown, how they’re grown (the methods and processes used), regulations, testing and labelling in individual countries, and so on.
So, each set of crops or food might be assessed individually, and this is especially relevant as technology changes in the future.
Firstly, What Are GMO Crops & Foods?
Potential Pros Of GMO Crops & Foods
May Be Modified For Pest & Insect Resistance
There’s claims that some crops can be engineered to be more pest resistant to whatever the dominant pests are in a particular region, for a particular crop.
In this instance, a benefit may be that it reduces the need for, and use of pesticides (and the time spent applying them)
May Be Modified For Herbicide Resistance
There’s claims that some crops can be engineered to better tolerate specific herbicides
The aim is that farmers can apply herbicides with less chance that these chemicals kill their crop in the process
In this instance, an added benefit may be that soil doesn’t need to be tilled as often for weed control, so, farmers may have the option to use conservation tillage production methods that preserve topsoil, prevent erosion, and reduce carbon emissions
Soil management practices that promote or improve soil health can also promote the populations of beneficial insects and bacteria in the soil
May Be Modified For Disease Resistance
Some crops are more vulnerable or prone to certain diseases
There’s claims that crops can be engineered to be more resistant to these diseases
One example is the papaya ring spot virus (PRSV).
The GM Rainbow Papaya [was] developed to be resistant to PRSV [and this] allowed Hawaiian papaya farmers to recover from an outbreak [of this disease] (gmoanswers.com)
From blogs.umass.edu: ‘Certain staple crops like cultivated papayas and bananas would be extinct due to noxious diseases if GM resistant varieties were not developed …’
May Be Modified For Drought Resistance
There’s claims that some crops can be engineered to better retain moisture/water, or not need as much water
Some of the benefits of this might be that crops can grow in a wider range of climates (particularly dryer climates), crops are more resistant to droughts and natural events, and some water hungry crops like cotton for example may not need as much irrigation
May Be Modified For Flood Resistance
Scientists have already worked on rice varieties to extend the amount of days that rice can survive under flooding conditions.
Scientists are now working on other crop types such as tomato to try to incorporate flood resisting traits
… “in Bangladesh and India, four million tons of rice, enough to feed 30 million people, is lost each year to flooding,” and their team engineered a species of rice with a flood resistant gene …
This flood resistant gene enables more plants to survive floods, and more people are subsequently able to eat the plants.
May Be Modified For An Enhanced Nutritional Profile, Or To Have A Longer Shelf Life
There’s claims that certain foods can be engineered for a more desirable nutritional profile, such as increased macro or micro nutrients (like proteins, or vitamins and calcium for example)
There’s also claims that some foods can be engineered to stay edible/stay fresh for longer at the retail or consumer level
There’s obviously potential human health benefits, as well as benefits in reducing food waste.
Foods with a longer shelf life may also be able to be transported longer distances, and obviously be stored for longer when they arrive to their destination.
Foods can be engineered to have a better shelf life, or better nutrients, or more of a specific nutrient (vittana.org)
Genetically modified soybeans with an enhanced oil profile, much like olive oil, have been developed and are longer lasting and trans-fat free (gmoanswers.com)
May Be Modified To Decrease Browning & Bruising
Some foods are more prone to browning and bruising compared to others
There’s claims that foods like potatoes and apples can be engineered to eliminate or reduce this
Not only might this save producers, retailers and consumers money, but it could also reduce food waste at various levels
May Be Modified To Help Improve Biofuel Manufacturing Processes (& Save Resource Inputs)
Certain biotech corn varieties enable more efficient biofuels production by improving the process through which cellulose and/or starch is broken down and converted to fuel (gmoanswers.com)
This may reduce the resources needed to produce biofuels, and also the environmental footprint of the biofuel process
May Reduce The Need For Nitrogen Fertilizer
We have GM crop plants with … the ability to produce more food with lower fertiliser inputs (theconversation.com).
Not only would this potentially improve the bottom line for agricultural producers (with potentially increased yields and less money spent on fertilizer), but it could also decrease the environmental footprint of synthetic fertilizer use
May Lead To Less Pesticide Use In Some Instances
In the example of a report on GMO yields we give below, it’s noted by theconverstion.com that pesticide use was reduced by 37% in that study.
May Be Able To Help Address Larger Social & Environmental Issues
Genetic engineering of crops and foods for certain traits may be able to help address larger scale social and environmental issues.
As just a few examples, engineering for moisture retention may help address water scarcity, and engineering for browning, bruising, and a longer shelf life, may help address food waste or loss by producers, processors, retailers and consumers (as not as much food has to be thrown away/discarded).
Another example is if less synthetic pesticides, herbicides and synthetic nitrogen fertilizers are used in crop production, there is then less synthetic chemicals that are running off into the soil, water and air, less emissions, and so on.
Through better food production with GE, we may also be able to address other world issues going forward like climate change/global warming, freshwater supply issues, water security, overpopulation, malnutrition and so on (msutoday.msu.edu)
Might Help Produce Higher Yields (Which May Lead To Higher Profits)
Some reports of farms using GMO crops report higher yields for the same area of land as conventional farming.
Higher yields generally mean higher profits
There may also be less input costs, as well as time and effort spent on growing and processing foods and crops.
A few examples of this are:
In the most comprehensive meta-analysis (of 147 publications) to date, researchers from Goettingen University have concluded that the adoption of GM technology has:
Reduced pesticide use by 37%
Increased crop yield by 22%
Increased farmer profits by 68%.
… The yield and profit gains are considerably higher in developing countries than in developed countries, and 53% of GM crops are grown in developing countries
… from 1996 to 2015, GMO crops are estimated to have contributed to an additional global production of 357.7 million tons of maize, 180.3 million tons of soybeans, 25.2 million tons of cotton and 10.6 million tons of canola.
GM crops have contributed to higher yields … [of about] 30 percent more in some farming areas …
[A Mexico City-based organization has created drought resistant maize varieties that yield up to 30% higher than commercial seeds under drought conditions … but this has taken years and decades to achieve … and they are 10 years or more from economic commercialization] (forbes.com)
Might Lead To More Efficient Use Of Agricultural Land & Cropland
Higher yields for the same area of land means crop land is used more efficiently.
Additionally, gmoanswers.com notes:
Through enhanced adoption of conservation tillage practices, the reduction of insecticide use, and the use of more environmentally benign herbicides that increase yields, GM agriculture has alleviated pressure to convert additional land into agricultural use
Might Help Reduce Poverty, And Increase Food Security In Developing Countries
Two sources indicate this might be the case:
[GMOs can] contribute to poverty reduction and food security in developing countries (gmoanswers.com).
The yield and profit gains are considerably higher in developing countries than in developed countries, and 53% of GM crops are grown in developing countries (theconverstion.com)
May Lead To Safer Conditions For Farm Workers, & Reduced Health Risk Overall
If the result of using GMO seeds in some locations is decreased pesticide use, this may reduce the health risk for some farm workers due to less chance of pesticide exposure
May Lead To Less Labor Output Required By Farmers For Some Activities
If there’s less pesticides and fertilizer used, there may be less time spent spraying and spreading pesticides and fertilizers
Several Parties Might Profit/Benefit From GMO Use
One study outlined by vox.com indicates that ‘around one-third of the total economic benefit of GM crop technology goes to seed and chemical companies … Another third accrues to US farmers … [and] The remaining third is split between US consumers and the rest of the world … But, in general, it’s said that Seed & Chemical companies, US farmers, US consumers, and developed countries all benefit’
So, it’s possible that the economic benefits of GMO seed use may be shared, as opposed to seed and chemical companies taking most of the profit and revenue share.
Newly Engineered Rice Might Be Able To Reduce Emissions
According to some estimations, rice produces 10% of the world’s methane emissions
So, a GM rice variety has potential for methane reductions in this regard
[one group has transferred] a single gene from barley to rice [and in the process reduced methane emissions 90%, as well making the seeds larger with more energy]
If all the world’s rice used this technology, it would be the equivalent of closing down 150 coal-fired power stations or removing 120 million cars from the road annually
May Help Preserve Or Increase Biodiversity, Or Increase The Size Of Genetic Bases
GM crops/food technology could help expand this base
Since we are dealing with narrow genetic and germplasm bases for most of our staple food crops, we may have to reach out to genetic engineering technologies and genes from other sources to improve them further (msutoday.msu.edu)
We currently rely on very few plant species for the majority of the world’s food production.
More than half of our plant-derived energy intake comes from just three grasses (wheat, rice and corn).
Gene editing could provide a way to expand this
Some Question The Safety Of The Increased Use Of Herbicides Associated With GM Seed Use, But Others Say These Questions Are Unfounded
theconversation.com outlines that ‘glyphosate is safe if used as directed’ and there is ‘no statistically significant evidence for an association [of glyphosate] with cancer’.
The Current Scientific Consensus Is That GMO Foods Carry No More Risk To Human Health & The Environment Than Conventional Food & Crops
The current scientific consensus on GM foods and crops, from two different sources:
… currently available food derived from GM crops poses no greater risk to human health than conventional food, but … each GM food needs to be tested on a case-by-case basis before introduction (wikipedia.org)
… in the scientific community, there is no dispute or controversy regarding the safety … of foods produced from genetically modified (GM) crops
To date, more than 3,000 scientific studies have assessed the safety of these crops in terms of human health and environmental impact.
These studies together with several reviews performed on a case-by-case from regulatory agencies around the world have enabled a solid and clear scientific consensus: GM crops have no more risk than those that have been developed by conventional breeding techniques.
In addition, there is also extensive literature that compiles the socioeconomic and environmental benefits that transgenic crops have reported in two decades of commercialization
The geneticliteracyproject.org, wikipedia.org, msutoday.su.edu, livescience.com, forbes.com, gmoanswers.com and royalsociety.org resources in the resource list all have more information on the current consensus.
Some Studies On Transgenic Crops Indicate They May Have Less Unintended Consequences Compared To Non Transgenic Crops
… [in terms of past studies of] crops generated by transgenesis … vs crops generated by traditional cross breeding and mutagenesis… the transgenic crops had far fewer unintended consequences than the crops generated by traditional breeding methods (geneticliteracyproject.org)
The forbes.com resource excerpt under the ‘impact on human health’ section in this linked guide details this finding
One example of this is the engineered properties of GM seeds, and also of GM food or food ingredients (such as a modified nutritional profile)
RoyalSociety.org also mentions:
Genetic methods to improve sustainable increases in yield are very attractive because seed can easily be distributed to producers.
It is also an attractive commercial target, because seed is a definable product that can be traded.
Might Be Able To Be Used In A Mixed Approach With Conventional Or Organic Farming, To Obtain Benefits From Each Approach
‘… [we] propose that the case-by-case scrutiny of GM crops would allow the organic industry to show it is willing to use the smartest technologies for improving the sustainable productivity of food and fibre production.
Adoption [of GM organics] would massively improve the productivity of organic agriculture, and the productivity boost would help make organic food price competitive.
GMO Foods May Be On Par With Organic Foods In Terms Of Nutrients & Health Risks
Various sources say GMO foods provide the same nutrients and the same health risks as organic foods (vittana.org)
For Some Specific GM Crops, Insecticide Use Might Be Trending Down
There’s at least one source that indicates that cotton crops using engineered cotton seeds are experiencing a decrease in usage of insecticides, when seeds are engineered to include insecticide inside them
Some Case Studies For Individual Plots Of Land & Individual Farms Reports Favorable Results For GM Cotton Seed Use
Potential Cons Of GMO Crops & Foods
The Conclusiveness Of The Consensus On GMO Foods & Crops Has Been Questioned By Some
Specifically, they challenged the conclusiveness of the consensus.
They aren’t asserting that GMOs are unsafe or safe – they are saying there is a scarcity of contradictory scientific evidence published, and the consensus claims are not supported by an objective analysis or refereed literature.
Read the linked resource for more information and the range of points listed by ESE.
Some Question The Current Research & Studies On GMOs
There’s Questions Over Whether The GMO Testing, Regulation, Approval and Labelling Process (& Framework) Is Adequate In Some Countries
Regulatory processes and framework, and requirements in order to get a GM product approved (deregulated) and in the commercial market differs between different countries.
Some question these requirements.
This is just one example though.
In the linked guide, we list other examples.
Some Question How Safe GMOs Are To Eat For Humans, & Possibly For Livestock Over The Long Term
There are groups that point out that there is a lack of studies and results on the long term effects of GM foods (and these groups also point out the potential short comings of the few available long term studies).
Long term health implications are particularly an unknown according to some groups:
In this guide, we provide some excerpts and paraphrased information from earthopensource.org and other sources that either questions the general safety of GM food, or alludes to some potential uncertainties.
In the absence of credible independent long-term feeding studies, the safety of GMOs is unknown (nongmoproject.org).
The Australian Organic organisation says … there are no long-term studies on human health (theconversation.com)
Other Potential Issues, Concerns & Risks Might Exist With GMOs, & It’s Questioned Whether We Actually Need GMOs In The Future
There’s a list of other potential issues that various sources identify might exist with GMOs, and there’s considerations on both sides of the debate when it comes to questioning whether GMOs are required for the future or not.
Other Solutions Might Exist To Address Food Production For A Growing Population
… population management in overpopulated cities, changes to lifestyles, changes to consumer choices and diets, changes to what we grow and produce, changs to where we grow things (geographically) in agriculture, and changing farming methods (conventional vs sustainable/organic), just to name a few
All these solutions, and other solutions, may help address food production issues without having to use GM seeds.
It’s also worth specifically point out how reliant livestock production is on GM seeds:
Food-producing animals consume 70% to 90% of genetically engineered crop biomass, mostly corn and soybean (forbes.com).
Other sources say 95% of livestock feed in the US is GE, and worldwide, 70 to 90% of GE crop biomass goes to livestock
Changing our diets and agricultural production to require less animal feed crops and reducing animal products (like animal meat and dairy) in general brings into question the need for GMOs in this regard
There’s also the secondary point of how inefficient livestock production is in some aspects
Other Solutions Might Exist To Address Other Large Scale Environmental & Social Issues
… better and more efficient water and irrigation management to address water scarcity, reducing emissions to address a changing climate, investing in farm, storage and transport level technology in developing countries to address food loss, and minimizing retailer and consumer level food waste to address food waste in developed countries, just to name a few
All these solutions, and other solutions, may help address environmental and social issues without having to use GM seeds.
GM technology may be looked at as a band-aid type solution to fix these problems, and instead of looking at sustainable long term solutions:
Some argue that by using GMOs as a band aid [various issues,] that we are avoiding those issues … Instead of avoiding, we should be solving the core issues (earthopensource.org)
Some Question The Evidence That GMOs Really Provide Specific Benefits & Resistance Via Their Engineered Traits
Those who are critical of GMOs indicate that the claimed benefits from the engineered traits of GM seeds (like pest resistance, better moisture retention, better productivity, etc) are mainly made by GM seed companies, and don’t have any solid evidence to support them yet.
Despite biotech industry promises, there is no evidence that any of the GMOs currently on the market offer increased yield, drought tolerance, enhanced nutrition, or any other consumer benefit (nongmoproject.org).
Monsanto had marketed a drought-resistant corn product, but that this has not had great commercial uptake and its efficacy was questioned by a scientific study …
[it is worth noting though that] Arcadia has not yet received regulatory approval for the product, so has not been able to sell drought-tolerant soybeans in Argentina.
As such, the commercial impact of the product is still uncertain
Increased yield may also be an incorrect marketing claim about GM crops:
Some say the reports that GMOs increase yields compared to other farming methods are not accurate (earthopensource.org)
GM Companies Can Experience Challenges In Getting Products To Market, & Commercially Established
From the above forbes.com example, we can see there can also be certain challenges to do with regulatory approval and commercial impact and uptake.
It can cost millions and take over a decade to get a product to market (we outline some of these numbers in our GMO regulations and studies and research guide).
This may limit the scaling and effectiveness of GM products and some ways.
Research & Development, & Commercialization Timespans & Lead Times Can Be Lengthy
In the example by forbes.com higher up in this guide of the new higher yielding drought resistant maize variety, it’s noted that the the development time, and time to get the GM product to market is many years.
There’s Debate On Whether The Money & Resources Put Into GMOs Could Be Put Into Other Agricultural Methods & Technology
For example, the regulatory approval process alone can cost millions of dollars for a new GM crop, and studies and research aren’t cheap either.
It’s arguable that this money and these resources could be spent elsewhere, such as on plant cross breeding techniques, or on developing organic and sustainable farming technology and programs.
The question would be whether these other technologies and production methods are better than GM technology, or more effective according to certain measures.
If they are, there may be less viability in investing so much into GMOs.
From forbes.com: ‘… research into GMOs is taking resources away from potentially much more helpful cross-breeding projects in the short run.]
GM Genes Can Spread, Or Transfer To Wild Organisms
Common examples are outcrossing or mixing of genes in the wild
Once organisms are released into the environment, they can’t be recalled.
One example is …
… GE foods and crops [can] mix with conventional or natural foods or crops, or a nut gene gets transferred to a soybean for example.
In 2000, it was found that a pest-repelling GMO corn crop that was only approved for feeding animals had cross-pollinated conventional corn crops nearby that were intended for human food
A Small Number Of Large Seed & Chemical Companies Are Tied To The Use GM Seeds (Over Conventional Seeds)
Those who are critical of GMO use point out that a small handful of large seed and chemical companies control and dominate GMO seed supply (over conventional seeds)
Seed research and development, patents for seeds, seed supply, and chemical use (of pesticides and herbicides for example) can all be tied back to these companies.
It might be argued that these companies have a conflict of interest to push for the use of GM seeds with this being the case, as they stand to profit significantly
There are 5 other companies that, along with Monsanto, control nearly all of the GMO seed market.
This include Sungenta, Dow Agrosciences, Bayer, BASF, and DuPont.
This means a majority of corn and soybean products are not only profiting the farmer, but they are profiting companies as well
[there is a] dominance of the global GM seed and agrichemicals market by a handful of chemical companies (including Dow Chemical, Du Pont, Monsanto, Bayer, ChemChina and Syngenta)
[In 2008 Monsanto made] nearly as much on herbicide as it [did] on corn seeds. (Overall, the company expects to make $3.8 billion on seeds in ’08). (gmwatch.org)
May Be Conflict Of Interest Between Companies Involved In Ownership Of GM Seeds, & Agricultural Chemical Companies
This conflict of interest might be that herbicide use has reportedly grown in use significantly since the introduction of GM seed use in the US.
Monsanto is currently the world’s biggest seed and pesticide corporation, leading the way in GM seed development, and taking monopoly over GM seed prices.
Biotech companies have certainly profited from GM crops, not least because seeds and genetic innovations can be patented.
Monsanto, for instance, can sell both Roundup herbicide and Roundup-resistant corn and soybeans to farmers, who must repurchase the seeds every year
More than 80% of all genetically modified crops grown worldwide have been engineered for herbicide tolerance.
As a result, the use of toxic herbicides, such as Roundup®, has increased fifteenfold since GMOs were first introduced
Most GMOs are a direct extension of chemical agriculture and are developed and sold by the world’s largest chemical companies. The longterm impacts of these GMOs are unknown (nongmoproject.org)
Herbicides Linked To GM Seed Use Might Have Effects On Soil, Plants & Animals
Forbes.com points out:
‘While Roundup has not tested as toxic to humans and other mammals, the longer it has been on the market, the worse its effects on soil health and long-term plant fecundity appear. In addition, Roundup Ready plants may not allow necessary micronutrients to be absorbed by animals consuming them’
[herbicide in general can] runoff into soil and water … And this affects amphibians and other types of wildlife [and especially aquatic life] (blogs.umass.edu)
Glyphosate is used in weed killers like Roundup.
This chemical is water soluble, and can get into water sources like groundwater, rivers, streams, oceans etc. – and harm amphibian populations
It can be toxic for both directly to the animals, and indirectly via water pollution
Farmers In Some Countries May Experience A Range Of Threats, Risks & Disadvantages Associated With The Use Of GM Seeds
This might especially be true in developing countries.
Farmers may lose leverage, lose sovereignty, and become dependent in some ways on the companies who supply their seeds.
There may also be business and livelihood risks/threats that farmers experience by aligning themselves with the companies that supply the GM seeds.
Legal risks may also be a potential issue for some farmers.
Because GMOs are novel life forms, biotechnology companies have been able to obtain patents to control the use and distribution of their genetically engineered seeds.
Genetically modified crops therefore pose a serious threat to farmer sovereignty and to the national food security of any country where they are grown
Losing leverage, losing power and independence, losing sovereignty, and going into debt [are all threats farmers may face when using GM seeds]
Genetically modified crops [are also a threat to the] national food security of any country where they are grown
Seeds might not be renewable for example or farmers may be limited by the seeds they can choose from to grow (by way of contract) – which can put developing country farmers in debt if they don’t make a profit on one particular season
… the companies that make GMOs now have the power to sue farmers whose fields have been contaminated with GMOs, even when it is the result of the drift of pollen from neighboring fields.
Many believe that the dominance of the global GM seed and agrichemicals market by a handful of chemical companies (including Dow Chemical, Du Pont, Monsanto, Bayer, ChemChina and Syngenta) puts farmers in financially vulnerable situations, particularly in developing countries.
Where once farmers had choice and saved their own seeds for crop regeneration, now Monsanto has them sign a user agreement that prevents them from saving and replanting the seeds, forcing them to reinvest each season
To protect GMO profits, patents are sought on certain seeds, which has caused legal troubles for some farmers who have had GMO seeds cross-pollinate with their crops, despite not planting GMOs (vittana.org)
Since [GM] seeds are considered company property, even the unintended growing of a GMO crop can result in the need to pay a royalty [to companies that own the seed or the patent] (vittana.org)
In this guide about the sustainability of conventional cotton, we outline how the use of GM cotton seeds may present a range of issues for cotton farmers (refer to the ‘thegreenhubonline.com’ resource).
Since GM seeds aren’t renewable like conventional seeds, GM seed contracts may place a debt and a burden on poor farmers to produce in a season or two, or face financial ruin.
Politics & Economics Based Motivations May Heavily Influence Whether Specific Countries Use GMOs Or Not, As Opposed To Prioritising Following What The Science Says
This might mean that some countries place political ties and the meet economic objectives before what the science and research says on GMOs in some regards.
Essentially, there can be conflict between the different priorities when deciding to use GMOs or not.
Pressure may be applied from one country onto another as well.
The main reasons other countries haven’t followed suit [in planting some types of GM crops] are political and economic.
The negative attitude to GM crops found in Europe, where they import GM crops such as soybeans for animal feed but do not allow their own farmers to plant it, has had a strong influence on African politicians.
The reluctance of so many African countries to GMOs is also attributed to fears about the impact it would have on trade with other countries, particularly Europe where a number of countries have banned GM imports.
gmo.geneticliteracyproject.org outlines the following:
When nations ban the importation or cultivation of GMO products, such moves are generally driven not by science, as the independent science organizations in every major country have come out with public statements that GM products are safe.
Other factors are trade protectionism, pressure from activists, public uneasiness or a desire to protect a country’s image—such as the French belief that genetic crops could “contaminate” the country’s reputation as a world food capital.
[In Europe there is a clash between scientists and political groups]
Scottish leaders, for example, admitted that their decision to opt out of GMO cultivation was based on marketing concerns, rather than science.
And when the European Commission’s science adviser, Anne Glover, spoke in favor of the science of genetic engineering, she found herself out of a job following intense lobbying by opposition groups.
Bans almost always run counter to the advice of scientists and agricultural experts in the nations where they are implemented
There Might Be Some Connection Between The Use Of Herbicide Resistant Crops, The Increased Use Of Herbicides, & The Development Of Herbicide Resistant Weeds In The US
So, the cycle might be that herbicide resistant crops are used, more herbicides are used on these crops, and super weeds develop as an end result.
There’s not only super weeds to consider, but the impact that increased herbicide use/spraying might have on the environment.
We are talking about the impact of Glyphosate, Roundup, Glyphosate Tolerant Crops, Glyphosate Resistant Weeds and so on (blogs.umass.edu).
Genetically modified crops also are responsible for the emergence of “superweeds” and “superbugs,” which can only be killed with ever more toxic poisons such as 2,4-D (a major ingredient in Agent Orange) (nongmoproject.org)
An example of herbicide resistant weeds has been seen in North America with glyphosate resistance (GR) shown by the weeds there.
The more you spray glyphosate, the more likely it is that the weeds will evolve to survive glyphosate treatment.
The increased amount of spraying due to GR weeds leads to a higher amount of glyphosate found in our groundwater, surface water, soils, and precipitation
The glyphosate can pollute through runoff, pesticide-drift, and leaching through the ground.
Pests may develop a tolerance or resistance to certain pesticides even with GMO crops.
This can sometimes create super pest populations which are harder to control and can significantly damage crop yields
Pest/Weed Resistant GMO Crops Can Still Be Lost To Some Weeds
So, this can lead to the question of how effective pest/weed resistant GM seeds are, and whether they are really required with this being the case.
There are currently 64 different types of weeds which have been proven to be resistant to atrazine – all without GMO pairing.
Farmers can lose up to half their yield from these atrazine-resistant weeds
Can Reduce Biodiversity In Some Ways, Or Place Environmental Pressure On Other Plants, Crops & Foods
Modified organisms could be inbred with natural organisms, leading to the possible extinction of the original organism (livescience.com).
If plants and crops and food are continually engineered and bred for the same traits – there may be a loss of overall diversity of genetic information, despite the more favorable new crops and foods being better for farmers and consumers
There’s Debate That Better Farming Results Can Be Achieved With Sustainable/Organic Farming & Non GM Seeds
Sustainable and organic farming practices are an alternative to farming that uses GM seeds.
[the results of sustainable farming practices over using GM technology might lead to better] yields, reduced pesticide use, reduced energy usage, increased revenues and so on (earthopensource.org)
earthopensource.org gives a more detailed breakdown on how sustainable farming may compare to GM farming, and how some of the claimed benefits of GM farming aren’t true
May Cause Gene Transfer Of Antibiotic Resistant Bacteria
Some sources indicate there is a small chance this could happen.
GMOs are often incorporated with antibiotic-resistant genes in order to strengthen the crops that will grow.
There is speculation, but no confirmed facts or correlations, that this process could be contributing to the formation of antibiotic-resistant bacteria
Although the probability is low, gene transfer from GM foods into bacteria in our gut, or cells in our body, could occur.
There are fears that antibiotic-resistant genes used as markers when creating GMOs could contribute to antibiotic resistance
Proteins & Genetic Material From Other Organisms Can Sometimes Trigger Allergies
In transgenic organisms where genetic material is transferred from one organism to another, there have been cases where people have experienced allergic reactions to this transferred genetic material from the first organism.
In one case, GMOs that contained proteins from Brazil nuts were found to trigger an allergic reaction in people who are allergic to them.
Because of this, any proteins that come from a different food item must be listed as part of the ingredients or growing process and be tested to determine their ability to cause an allergic reaction
In 1996, researchers found that when an allergenic Brazil nut gene was transferred into a soybean, the allergenicity from the Brazil nuts was transferred too.
It wasn’t approved for market and, since then, the FAO and WHO say that allergenic proteins are not allowed to be transferred into a GMO
In addition to allergies, choice.com.au says that GM foods may be less nutritious or even toxic compared to ‘Either through genes introduced in the lab (which can be an issue when it comes to labelling), or through mixing of genes out in the field’
May Lead To The Development Of New Diseases/Pathogens
Bacteria and viruses are sometimes used in gene modification, and some people believe this could lead to new pathogens (choice.com.au)
This is more so speculation at this point though
Some Herbicides Used On Some GM Crops Have Been Linked To Cancer Development In Animals
A paper that was first published in 2013 linked the herbicide that is found in Roundup-tolerant crops to cancer development in rats.
Some people are skeptical of eating corn because of this