The average customer strolling through a supermarket is unaware of the historical change brought about by genetically modified crops. The phenomenal performance of GM technology witnessed by farmers across the globe hasn’t yet translated to the grocery aisle, and beyond the rhetoric of GMO labels and apocalyptic Frankenfood warnings, GM crops are an enigma to many U.S. consumers.
However, a new line of next-generation GM crops is just around the corner, with clear-cut benefits to consumers. The power of transgenic corn and biotech soybeans is harnessed on farmland; but GM apples and bananas and Golden rice will make their impact on the grocery aisle, directly appealing to the last link in the food chain — consumers.
The jet-pack GM era has arrived and “is happening now,” Anastasia Bodnar, Biology Fortified biotechnologist, tells Nature in an article titled, “Transgenics: A New Breed.” GM researchers have produced the Arctic apple, which browns and darkens at a very slow rate. “Making apples that could be processed in such a way without browning could be a real boon for the industry. And if the apples are received well … Arctic avocados, pears and even lettuce could be next.”
Golden bananas and Golden rice are getting closer to food industry access. The bananas, loaded with nutrients, carry tremendous health benefit implications for Third World countries. Likewise, Golden rice offers a lifeline to the millions of children that die every decade from vitamin A deficiency. In addition, Golden rice can help prevent millions of children from going blind within the same time frame.
The next-generation queue of GM crops has inestimable value to global food security: lettuce that sprouts year-round; plums without pits for food processing; and crops requiring minimal pesticide use. The new wave of crops shows that GM technology is on the cusp of tangible consumer benefits. Just recently, Sir Mark Walport, chief scientific advisor in the UK, said the rise of GM crops was “inexorable” and that GM technology was “showing its value.” According to the Telegraph, “His comments suggest that GM technology is rapidly gaining influence after years of public hostility and despite fears about the so-called ‘Frankenstein foods.’”
It’s only been 16 years since widespread use of GM crops began. The benefits to agriculture and global food security represent a historical benchmark. PG Economics estimates the global farm income gain over the 16-year period at $98.2 billion — a result of diminishing weed and pest pressure, improved genetics, and a major drop in the overall cost of production.
The anti-GMO campaigners will continue to march in full force, beating a luddite drum and grabbing headlines for boldly mowing down another field trial of GM crops. But as the flow of genetically modified crop benefits grows stronger and swifter, possibly the next generation of grocery-aisle GM crops will succeed in diminishing the volume of rhetoric from the Frankenfood cult.
Mark Lynas, former anti-GM apostle and pioneer, said it best during his road-to-Damascus speech on Jan. 3, 2013: “The real Frankenstein’s monster was not GM technology, but our reaction against it.”
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