Genetically Modified Crops: A Long Way to Go

Genetically Modified Crops: A Long Way to Go

Amit Srivastava (Banaras Hindu University, India) and Claudia Edith Torres-Vargas (University of Tübingen, Germany)
Copyright: © 2017 |Pages: 16
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-1683-5.ch006


Genetic engineering and modification of food crops has been emerged as one of the most relevant issue for debate due to concern over its direct impact on human health and environment. The striking development and advancement of biotechnological techniques lead to the generation and production of genetically modified plants with improved features such as increased resistance against biotic and abiotic stresses. In spite of all the success made by plant geneticist, the genetic engineering of food crops is still in its infancy and there is a need to carefully notice the issues that can be directly detrimental to the environment and human health. Further, from a basic genetics perspective, genetically modified foods may possess unpredictable components and their unintended amount that can be far different than the desired alteration. Open questions and challenges for production and application of genetically modified crops will be discussed in the current chapter.
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In general terms “Genetically Modified Crops (GM crops) or “Biotech Crops” are the transgenic plants in which the DNA is altered using genetic engineering tool and techniques in order to improve the yield and resistance against abiotic and biotic stresses that can cause damage to the crops. Predominantly, the aim of plant biotechnology is to develop a transgenic plant line by introducing a new gene and trait in to the plant cells that has not been present in them naturally (Altman & Hasegawa, 2012). These genes transcribe and then translate to produce a protein inside the cells that is beneficial to the plant in certain conditions. In their natural environment plant experiences, a variety of stress conditions which causes serious damage to the yield of plant and the quality and quantity of food produced by them. Therefore, plant biotechnologists and molecular biologists have been trying and became successful enough in developing a significant number of transgenic plants that are resistant to pests, herbicides, bacterial and fungal pathogens. Genetic engineering has not only become capable to cope up with the adverse environmental conditions but also managed to improve the nutritional quality of plant products and bioproduction of pharmaceuticals and compounds of industrial, agricultural and medical significance (Altman & Hasegawa, 2012).

Although it is encouraging to notice an increase in the use of this promising technology all around the world but still there are many concerns related with the predicted negative impacts of these crops in our diet and surroundings. The major concerns over the GM crops are human health, safety of human population, environmental risks (Brookes & Barfoot, 2016) and issues related with corporate control. From a theoretical point of view, the GM crops hold many risk factors but if to believe the results based on the regulatory practices they are considered to be safe so far. Based on last two decades of experiences the environmental risk and corporate control issues has emerged as more complicated than any other GM crop issue probably because they can affect the human race at the population level. These concerns continue to exist because food can affect the population in many ways and that might be the prime reason why it is more personal to people and their communities (Wolfenbarger & Phifer, 2000). Therefore, it turned out that GM crops can be rejected and accepted by the people on personal grounds even if the risks associated with them are mostly benign. Ironically, people are generally inclined to trust science when it comes to the environment and health related subjects such as global warming and climate change but on contrary they find it hard to trust when it comes to GM food and their derivatives, even if sufficient scientific evidences are available in support of them. Despite of being a rather easy and common topic to talk about on, issue such as whether “GMO is harmful for our health or not” and if the “GMOs are really needed to feed the world” has been proved to be rather difficult to discuss at a rational and logical level. In the last two decades, the food politics have made it even more complicated. In the light of the present issues, the current chapter would discuss the developments, successes, failures, opinions of the supporters and opponents of GM crops that why do they “want” and why they “don’t want” to bring genetic modification in mainstream use and consumption.

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