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Regional themes > Food security Last update: 2020-11-27  

Journal of the American College of Nutrition - summary of main points of two preceding journal articles

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Agriculture and Genetically Modified Crops

Since the beginning of agriculture, humans have been manipulating crops to enhance quality and yield. Hybrid varieties have been developed via conventional breeding. Newer techniques such as radiation breeding enhanced seed producers' ability to develop new traits in crops. Genetic engineering techniques were developed in the 1980s and 1990s to enhance quality and yield.

Genetic engineering allows the transfer of a single gene or couple of genes in a much more precise, controllable and predictable manner than is achievable with conventional breeding.

Genetically engineered crops are required to undergo extensive food and environmental safety assessment, whereas conventionally modified crops are not.

Over 800 million people face hunger. Furthermore, most of the population growth will come from developing countries where malnutrition is already seriously degraded. In order to meet the nutritional needs of this growing population, cereal production will have to increase by 40 percent in the next twenty years. We cannot achieve the kinds of yield increases in a sustainable way using traditional methods of breeding.

Almost all of the world's major crops are now being improved by genetic engineering. Advantages include increased insect resistance and increased herbicide tolerance.

Scientists, the world over agree that genetically modified crops currently in use are not inherently less safe than conventional crops. The types of risks for conventionally and genetically modified crops are subject to extensive safety assessments. In the over 400 million acres of genetically modified crops planted worldwide, there has been no confirmed adverse report to date.

Food Safety Evaluation of Crops Produced through Biotechnology

Biotechnology is the most rapidly adopted technology in the history of agriculture.

There are few safety issues associated with the ingestion of the newly introduced DNA per se. There exist no reported incidents in which DNA has shown to be toxic. Despite fears and claims to the contrary, there are also not known instances of plant-derived DNA being taken up and incorporated into the mammalian genome. Dietary DNA is usually degraded when consumed and is quickly hydrolysed and digested into nucleocides in the human gastro-intestinal tract.

Transfer of plant DNA to bacteria has never been observed in nature, nor is it possible to demonstrate transfer in laboratory experiments.

The National Academy of Science of the US and several other countries, OECD, FAO, WHO and numerous other international organizations is stating that there is no evidence of harm or unusual risk associated with GMO. Crops produced by biotechnology are as safe or safer than crops produced by conventional breeding.

The Director General of the World Health Organization has confirmed that there are no risks to human consumption from the consumption of GMOs. The World Health Organization believes that "in the current crisis, governments of countries in Southern Africa must consider carefully the severe and immediate consequences of limiting the food aid that is made available for the millions of people desperately in need."

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