hi- what is your opinion on GMOs? i have friends in bioengineering who seem to pretty much agree on the consensus that they are all around better than non-GMO strains, except maybe when it comes to soy. basically what I'm wondering is are GMOs: - healthier? - better for the environment? - more agriculturally efficient? sorry this question is so long, thanks a million for answering it! (if you do)
from a scientific aspect:
the facts are, GMOs are the future and the key to increasing crop production for our increasing population if your goal is to keep up food production for more people. remember, the goal right now in agriculture- the key goal that we’re throwing everything into because big yikes fam- is to produce more food off less. so like, vertical farming? good, saves space. smaller plants with bigger yield? great, saves space, can plant more and get more food. plants that are resistant to drought? to high temps? to low fertilizer? amazing, it means you have hardier plants that you can put in places that regular plants wouldn’t be able to stand.
so are they agriculturally efficient? hell yeah, because remember, it takes about 10 years for a crop in testing- GMO or not- to reach a point in development where it can be submitted for approval by the USDA for the market (something I’ve learned in my current job). imagine doing all breeding without GMOs. you would literally be able to do one cross a year, maybe two if you’re in a warmer area (this is why a lot of soybean breeding has been moved to South America, where they can do twice as much breeding). with GMOs, you can develop and test stuff faster, so by a monetary standpoint it’s awesome.
lets not forget that GMO crops can withstand more because of the pure amount of precision put into them. like, lets say your corn breaks a lot. you can spend 3-4 years meticulously cross breeding your developing strain with a break-resistant variety to get that trait in, or you can just cut and paste in the gene. and get this: it doesn’t even have to be from the break resistant variety. you can pull it from another plant that might be better at not breaking, and get an even better resulting variety.
another thing that we can’t forget about is that new GMO tech helps us keep up with pests and diseases. at work, i’ve seen experiments involving root pests; plants infected had root systems destroyed down to a single tap root. imagine that happening to a farmer’s field. like, all of it. that’s the kind of thing we’re up against here; to stop infestations and to solve new challenges quickly by developing technology quickly, while still improving the plant to commercial level.
when talking to the breeders at work, they told me that the industry as a whole recently upped its goal from creating a crop that would give each farmer a 200 bushel harvest (200 bushels has been the goal for the past 30 years; they’ve recently reached it and exceeded it) to 300 bushels per harvest. they have to do this just by modifying the plants. they have no control over how much the farmer plants and/or how many fields they have.
to give some perspective here, one bushel is 60 pounds of grain. they’re aiming to have each farmer that buys their products be able to reliably harvest and sell 18,000 pounds of grain per year.
the moral of the story is that the breeding and agri industries are under a lot of pressure here, and they have to work fast, because the population is rising.
dwindling nitrogen supplies in farmland and unsustainable farming practices but im gonna save that for another time
are they healthier? it depends on what you believe. like, what we’ve found so far is that GMOs don’t hurt you. some of them have added vitamins that can help you (lets not forget the famous GMO golden rice, which uses a daffodil gene coupled with a soil bacterium gene to make a rice variety produce a huuuuuge amount of vitamin A. this has been so effective in solving vitamin deficiencies and health problems in 3rd world countries since it was introduced in 2005 that its won awards and been used as a universal case study for the whole “GMO plants” thing) but most are just like. idk. kind of there? they help the health of the plant and help the farmer bring in income, so???? idk???
are they better for the environment? i have no idea. i suppose indirectly, because like. if you have a heartier plant you have to clear less land for agriculture?? (can anyone weigh in here?). But if these got out into the wild, the effects could be DEVASTATING, which is why the USDA and related government organizations (depending on where you live) make it so you have to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that what you’re putting out into production won’t be crazy damaging if it magically gets out somehow.
ethically: i have no idea man. like im still super split on it. my scientist self says “you can literally buy everything to do it and modify plants to produce heat right in your own home right now” but then im like……………..idk man we just dont know. i dont want to hurt my plant friends. if this hurts our plant friends. idk